A brand-new-out-of-the-box a cappella group, Gentleman’s Rule is something like a boy band without the instruments. The 10 clean-cut 20-somethings in Gentleman’s Rule use only their voices to produce a full range of sound in their renditions of mostly pop songs — many of them written before some of the group’s members were born.
Given that their Nov. 13 performance at the Royal George Theatre was their very first — ever — their unabashed enthusiasm for singing in public is understandable. As they gain experience, they’ll learn it’s not necessary to applaud the audience repeatedly just for showing up. Relax, boys. You’ve got the pipes. Now you just need to work on some of your moves.
Gentleman’s Rule is the brainchild of Chicago’s Dan Ponce, reporter/anchor at WGN–TV and talk show host at WLS Radio. Earlier in his career, Ponce founded, directed and sang in Straight No Chaser, which bears more than a passing resemblance to Gentleman’s Rule: both are 10-men a cappella groups with roots at Indiana University. Taking on show biz responsibilities for the group is producer Charlie Blum.
These new kids on the block are tenor 1s Corey Frye, Andrew Morstein and Jesse Townes; tenor 2s TJ Breen, Brent Mann and Holland Nightenhelser; baritones Will Lockhart and Jasper Smith; and basses Drew Kipfer and Luke Mechling. All contribute strong voices to the group efforts, and each gets a chance to shine on solos: Nightenhelser was particularly melodious in “Hey Ya.”
Most of the selections stay firmly in the pop range, even when they borrow from other genres: reggae (Bob Marley’s “Everything’s Gonna Be All Right”), country (“Barefoot Blue Jean Night”) and hip hop (“Airplanes”). More interesting were new songs Ponce wrote for the group, especially “The Pachanelly Canon,” a clever mash-up of Nelly’s “Ride Wit Me” and Pachelbel’s “Canon in D,” the tune that sets the pace for brides all over America.
The program could use some punching up to reflect the youth of the performers. Much of the choreography was so wooden that omitting it might be an improvement. Murky lighting in unflattering green and purple didn’t help either, especially with the singers clad in charcoal blazers.
Things livened up, though, for Bruno Mars’s “Marry You.” With an audience member conscripted to sit center stage as each young man wooed her in succession, the number gained a cheeky narrative missing from the other selections. A little more loosening up and having fun would go a long way toward engaging audiences.
Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted St., Chicago
Through November 25, 2012
Tickets $39 – $69 at Royal George box office, (312) 988-9000; Ticketmaster.com or (800) 745-3000