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Straight No Chaser Brings Christmas Cheer to a Sold-Out Crowd

Shaina Eng |
December 13, 2011 | 12:53 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Straight No Chaser performed for a sold-out crowd at the Wiltern Theatre last Friday night. (Shaina Eng)
Straight No Chaser performed for a sold-out crowd at the Wiltern Theatre last Friday night. (Shaina Eng)
On Friday night, the ten-man a cappella sensation, Straight No Chaser, entertained a sold-out crowd at the Wiltern Theatre with their eclectic mix of songs, which includes hits from throughout the decades as well as Christmas carols, both old and new.  Though this is the third time the group has performed at the Wiltern, and this year’s show featured more theatrics, props, and multimedia than ever before. 

Following a short, entertaining video describing the group’s history and rise to fame (reminiscent of the Star Wars films' opening sequences), Straight No Chaser came out to cheers and loud applause, opening up the show with an upbeat arrangement of the Temptations’ “Get Ready.”

They then followed up with a 50's medley, which included doo-wop classics and tunes by the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley.  Though only half of them initially stepped out on stage, the other five returned in the middle of the song to try and regain the spotlight; what ensued was a vocal battle between rock and roll and doo-wop on the group’s elaborate setup of risers, until soloist Jerome Collins broke in with a resounding chorus of the Isley Brothers’ “Shout,” and encouraging the audience to clap and sing along. 

The group then went on to an audience favorite, their cover of Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours,” which is mashed up with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and was followed by a steamy version of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.”

Their next song, Weezer’s “Buddy Holly,” was both charming and fun, and each member of the group sported thick black horn-rimmed glasses in homage to the rock and roll legend.  Though it seemed a little rushed, soloist and music director Walter Chase said that the group likes to vary the tempo of the songs from time to time in order to keep things interesting for the group and the audience.

Following “Buddy Holly” was a slower, haunting version of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer.”  The song seemed to get off to a pitchy start, but the harmonies locked as it progressed and the audience was drawn into the song.

Straight No Chaser then seamlessly segued into their holiday set, singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and the Beach Boys’ “Little Saint Nick,” complete with hilarious and unexpected antics.  

They then closed out the first half of the show with an animated Straight No Chaser original song, written by Walter Chase, called “The Christmas Can-Can,” which pokes fun at the commercialization of Christmas, as it seems to come earlier and earlier every year. The song features the members of the group doing a kick line and, as they often joke, it also features their award-winning choreography (which has won no awards).

After a brief intermission, the group brought the audience back into the holiday mood with their stunning arrangement of “Carol of the Bells,” which was followed by a medley of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

In what was clearly one of the night’s highlights, basses Charlie Mechling and Randy Stine captivated the audience’s imagination as they, along with tenor Jerome Collins, took center stage during ”You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” hitting notes so low that the audience’s seats rumbled.

The group’s next song, “¿Dónde Está Santa Claus?,” was fun and energetic and both showcased more of their dance moves and gave the nicknames of each group member. 

Straight No Chaser transitioned out of their holiday set with a medley of songs by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, which showcased the group’s high tenors.  Soloist Tyler Trepp’s high notes soared, showing off his impressive vocal range, prompting fellow tenor Ryan Ahlwardt to comment, “Because nothing says ‘Walk Like a Man’ than singing higher than any man ever should” before introducing the next song, a moving and emotional cover of Coldplay’s “Fix You.”

Straight No Chaser then closed out the night by introducing themselves, then singing a medley of current hits, including Cee-Lo Green’s “Forget You,” Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and “Paparazzi.”  

But the sold-out audience hadn’t had enough.  The group came out for three encores; first, they sang another fan-favorite, their popular mashup “Billie Jean/Poison.”  

For their second encore, Straight No Chaser performed the song that got them signed to a record deal, their version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” which was fun, fresh, and filled with new surprises even though they have performed this song for more than three years.

Their final encore of the night was an off-mic version of “O Holy Night,” led by Jerome Collins on the solo.  Though it was undoubtedly easier to hear the group’s third encore in some places more than others, the audience was completely still as these ten powerful voices filled the theatre without the help of any electronic equipment, and it became clear that Straight No Chaser is not just a performing group, but they are also ten talented musicians with passion and raw talent.  

As a whole, the show was more than just a concert; it was a production.  With an elaborate setup of risers, incredible lighting design which added to the changing mood and atmosphere of each song, and witty banter between songs, Straight No Chaser showed that they are more than just a bunch of choir geeks; they are true performers who are making a cappella cool again.

Straight No Chaser has just released a new EP, “Six Pack, Vol. 2,” which features many of the songs from their fall tour show.  They will also be performing in Fresno on New Year’s Eve and in Anaheim in March. 

Reach reporter Shaina Eng here.  Follow Shaina on Twitter.

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