Abu Dhabi Choral group to stage Broadway-style hits

The selection of songs from musicals ranges from family crowd-pleasers such as a Mary Poppins medley and Abba's Money, Money, Money to heart-felt solos such as I'll Be Here from Ordinary Days.
The Abu Dhabi Choral Group gathered to rehearse The Phantom of the Opera. Lee Hoagland / The National
The Abu Dhabi Choral Group gathered to rehearse The Phantom of the Opera. Lee Hoagland / The National

The capital’s longest-running singing club, the Abu Dhabi Choral Group, may be without a home, but that hasn’t stopped them from putting on a dazzling show this month – 20 Shades of Broadway – that’s anything but grey. The selection of songs from musicals ranges from family crowd-pleasers such as a Mary Poppins medley and Abba’s Money, Money, Money, to heartfelt solos from off-Broadway shows such as I’ll Be Here from Ordinary Days, sung by the Lebanese-American Alana Barraj, the group’s chairwoman.

And in a tribute to The Who, who closed the F1 concerts in Abu Dhabi last month, Pinball Wizard from the musical Tommy will be performed, while young fans of the smash-hit movie Frozen can sing along to Love Is an Open Door. There’ll be a touch of acting and dancing to tunes such as the Stepsisters’ Lament from Cinderella.

Four decades of history

The Abu Dhabi Choral group has served the Abu Dhabi community for nearly 40 years, based during that time in locations including The Club, Al Muna Primary School, St Andrew’s church and the Officers Club. The group recently found itself without a home. Brighton College, where it has been based for the past three years, can no longer accommodate the group due to a clash of schedules.

The 28-year-old Barraj says: “We left Brighton College in May with three truckloads of stuff from four decades: costumes, props, sets, everything, which is now in a storage facility in Mussaffah. Some things live in people’s trunks. It’s been really difficult this semester.”

On the move

The singers started the season at St Andrew’s church. Barraj, who is assistant director of administration for arts and humanities at New York University Abu Dhabi, procured rehearsal space at NYUAD’s new arts centre. “This was fantastic, and I hope that the relationship can continue. But it didn’t work out with our show dates this year.

“We’re also hopeful about starting a relationship with Cranleigh School. We’re always looking for relationships with schools that can be mutually beneficial. We have a lot of equipment to share, as well as knowledgeable people. But I understand that because we’re not attached to a school, it makes us cumbersome to take on because we’re not a part of a system.”

Singing to a new beat

The Broadway theme of the new show is a far cry from the group’s origins as a classical choral group. The group’s South African publicity coordinator, Cathryn Downing, 36, recalls how the group’s tempo has recently changed.

“The demographic was completely different when I joined seven years ago. Almost everyone was over 50; I was by far the youngest. I thought ‘this is an older person’s choir’, though I didn’t mind it. The songs were more traditional. We just had a piano but we didn’t have any drums or anything.

“Our music is more light-hearted and fun these days. Because we’ve changed so much over the past four years, our name isn’t ideal – we should be Abu Dhabi Broadway Group. But because the group’s been around for so long, we have a history and an identity, so it’s hard to change the name.”

Looking for new talent

Rehearsals for the group’s annual May musical are scheduled to start next month. The group’s 50-odd members range from high-school students to people in their 60s, and are mostly female. “We’re very woman-heavy, as most theatre companies are,” admits Downing. “We don’t have that many strong men to do solos – most guys just want to stand in the back. So we’re looking for new basses and tenors. We only have five tenors this year. If one of them is absent, you can really tell.”

• 20 Shades of Broadway is at 7.30pm on December 5 and 6at The Club, and on December 8at Al Bateen Secondary School. Tickets cost Dh60 to Dh80, available at The Club and Spinneys Khalidiya. For more details, email abudhabichoralgrouptickets@gmail.com

artslife@thenational.ae

Published: December 2, 2014 04:00 AM

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