These can often be a niche affair. Here, a line of people stretched down the hall, well towards the front doors on Errol Street. The buzz in the queue grew into an unusually excited energy as punters (and clearly many devotees) took their places in an almost capacity theatre. The concert-like atmosphere was for Shania Choir, a (mostly) A cappella act celebrating the life and songs of country music superstar Shania Twain.
Shania Choir is a group of men and women of various shapes and sizes, alike but different in how they wear Twain’s signature outfits such as black trousers, red and black check shirts, and long loosely twirled hair. If you wouldn’t consider yourself a particular fan of Ms Twain, why would you want to see this show? There are a few good reasons.
Even someone who hasn’t listened to so much commercial radio for years might be surprised by how many of Twain’s songs they know as the tunes have infiltrated pop culture. It was also a nice discovery to find just how listenable and unexpectedly interesting her back-catalogue is.
Taking its name from one of Twain’s super hits performed in the show, Still The One also gives us a potted history of the woman born Eileen Regina Edwards in small-town Ontario, Canada. We navigated her challenges and triumphs from before and through the Shania years, illustrating facets such as her feminist lyrics and resilience. I was moved upon hearing of some of the hurdles and setbacks she faced. (No, I wasn’t welling up, it was just the haze effects.)
Overcoming challenges, Twain wrote her own history to win Grammys and take the mantle of the highest selling female country artist after producing a slew of hits. Particularly well-known ones presented here included up-tempo offerings Man! I Feel Like a Woman! and That Don’t Impress Me Much, through to ballads like From This Moment.
Shania Choir delivered quality harmonies throughout, sometimes complemented by a little electric guitar, bass or cello, and the odd amusing musical surprise to capture signature features of songs. As they performed, bathed in stage lights rotating through rainbow colours, I was struck by the fervour of the audience reaction. The crowd responded to the choir’s commitment to and affection for the songs. It was a great example of how much is added to the world when people are able to express their love without judgement or ridicule.
After the heights of success, issues from within and without derailed Twain’s career. Fifteen years after the last album, in 2017 Twain triumphed over her demons with the release of Things Are About to Get Good. Inclusion of this in the show provided a sentiment that I think many will find encouraging as we look towards the future.
I was totally swept along by the energy, professionalism and quality of Shania Choir, as I went between sympathy for the star and wearing a silly grin at the choir’s antics. I am sure I’ll remember this uplifting show for quite some time.
Although Twain is known for the scepticism of That Don’t Impress Me Much, I can’t think many could say that about Shania Choir. It’s a shame that Still The One was only at Melbourne Fringe for its opening Friday and Saturday. Hopefully the group won’t wait too long before giving their adoring crowd of old and new fans another wonderfully Up! experience.
Shania Choir: Still The One
Main Theatre – Lithuanian Club, 44 Errol Street, North Melbourne
Performance: Saturday 17 September 2017 – 9.00pm
Image: Shania Choir (sourced)
Review: Jason Whyte