A poster for the CU Show ChoirAnnan Zuo

Rachel Berry watch your back. There’s a new Show Choir in town, and this time they have welfare initiatives.

I walk into a Show Choir rehearsal to co-choreographer, Ella Palmer, projecting a “give it more face!” as the group dramatically sway and spin to Adele’s When We Were Young, an act co-musical director Kasia Fallan playfully refers to as “high camp.” Show choir is Cambridge’s answer to every 2010s teen’s dream: a mixture between a glee club and Pitch Perfect’s Barden Bellas. It’s an all-singing, all-dancing, all-cheese ensemble. The choir perform their work each term as an ADC Lateshow, widely deemed a highlight of the Cambridge theatre calendar.

“Our high standard is what motivates us”

My impression of Show Choir is that its members are there to make friends; ensuring the perfect harmonies and vocal precision that Cambridge choirs are famous for is very much on the periphery. Even the mention of making musical theatre a career is enough to elicit a snicker and a scoff from the committee. “We take the mick out of ourselves,” admits Kasia. “It’s all just for fun, everyone’s aware of that.” Co-choreographer Lauren Adam jokes that: “It’s not like there’s going to be talent scouts in the audience.”

But they’re quick to correct any suggestion that Show Choir is not to a high standard. “Our high standard is what motivates us,” co-musical director Katie-Lou White explains. “There are choirs that meet once a week and have a casual sing-song, and then others which meticulously work on the same song until it’s perfect. We’re somewhere in-between.” Indeed, the choreography I wandered upon was far from unenthusiastic and sloppy.

When asked what separates Show Choir from the rest of Cambridge theatre, the sense of community is apparent. “It’s a society rather than a show,” Katie-Lou continues. While the majority of shows across Cambridge are a ‘one-and-done’ affair, involving at least five missed lectures and three all-nighters, Show Choir rehearsals are stretched across the full term, and there’s no pressure to attend all of them.

Ella uses this to justify why she has chosen Show Choir over more ‘recognised’ productions. “Show choir is the most fun thing I’ve been involved with in Cambridge,” she declares, “and the longer you do your degree, the more you realise that fun things are what you want to prioritise!” And it’s true. The committee are still laughing and full of energy after their intense three-hour rehearsal, proving just how much they enjoy each other’s company. “It’s great because the spread-out rehearsals and termly performances mean you have time to make friends, and also the guarantee that you’ll work with them again in the next show,” says Kasia.

“We’re unusual in that we welcome heckling”

Unfortunately, Show Choir falls victim to the university’s overarching access issues: “The eight-week terms still mean we only have a limited time to rehearse, much like any other show in the intense Cambridge theatre calendar,” Lauren admits. The choir, however, works to put access initiatives in place. “We make interactive scores for each of our songs available to all members online,” explains Katie-Lou. “In that sense, you’ve got more ways to catch up on show choir rehearsals than you do with your lectures.” A low bar, sure, but still evidence of Show Choir’s efforts to address these problems.


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Inclusion is important to the group. “There’s definitely a stereotype that choirs like ours attract queer students,” Ella states, “which makes sense; we’re a space where everyone is welcome and embraced.” Lauren evidences this: “In other shows, partner work often insists on having different-gender couples, but we don’t do that here – it’s just ‘grab a partner’ and that really helps people feel included and validated. We support people as individuals. There’s none of this ‘you have to fill these physical and social requirements to have this particular role.’”

It wouldn’t be a Show Choir performance without the audience drowning out half of the ensemble’s vocals with screaming and cheering. “We’re unusual in that we welcome heckling,” notes Evan Richards, welfare officer. “We actively encourage audience participation, and talk to our audience. That’s one of the best parts.” Kasia adds that: “it takes the pressure off – it’s not that deep. This is going to be on the stage and people are going to love it either way. It’s great because when you [perform] adequately, your friends are still going to be screaming for you, so when you actually do it well, they’re losing their minds.”

Ultimately, the level of joy and pride I witnessed from chatting to Show Choir is scarcely rivalled across the rest of the Cambridge theatre scene. You can catch the group performing CU Show Choir: Teenage Dream Thursday 16th and Friday 17th March at the ADC Theatre.