“Nothing makes a woman feel more like a girl than a man who sings like a boy.” This iconic Pitch Perfect quote feels truer than ever as the curtains open to reveal 11 young men in tailored blue suits harmonising flawlessly while fog rolls across the stage. The lights go up and the audience is transported to a 2010 club night. It’s the Edinburgh Fringe and we’re all here to see Oxford’s infamous a capella group, Out of the Blue.
Every member of Out of the Blue has prodigious talent, limitless charm and a great haircut.
Founded in 2000, Out of the Blue has been a staple at the Fringe for the past 16 years. Despite the rotation of members each year as they enroll in and eventually graduate from Oxford University and Oxford Brookes, the quality never wavers. A capella gained a firm footing in mainstream culture after the premiere of Glee in 2009, and fans of the show can't be blamed for making comparisons between this real-life group and the fictional Dalton Academy Warblers.
Traditionally, the boys mix modern hits with retro throwbacks—adding their own spin to the classics. Their signature move is to dramatically alter the intro of each number, giving the audience a few moments to play 'guess the song'. Most, if not all, of the members get a chance to solo, and the chemistry within the group is electric. The boys cement their squeaky clean image by taking time to promote their chosen charity, Helen & Douglas House, a hospice for children and young adults, for which they shake buckets after each show.
At this particular performance, volume levels were a little unbalanced. At times, the melody was drowned out by the bass and beatbox. Perhaps this is a credit to the group’s team mentality—there’s no ‘i’, and all that—but it was disappointing to get to the catchy chorus of an iconic song and barely discern the “We’re the kids in America” line from the background vocals. That being said, Ben Morris, the vocal percussionist, is remarkably skilled and his solo performance was a high point of the show. Special mentions also go out to the multilingual, achingly sweet rendition of Remember Me from Disney/Pixar's Coco, and the high-energy fan favourite, In The Jungle—performed each year to the delight of audiences of all ages.
No doubt about it, the Oxford boys bring their A-game to every Fringe. No one can pull off freestyle bopping while holding a single note and beaming like a maniac without committing to the process 100%. Come along for the playlist of your dreams—The Greatest Showman, Beyoncé and Ariana Grande all feature—and stay for the loveable, cheesy, dancing preps. Every member of Out of the Blue has prodigious talent, limitless charm and a great haircut. That’s what we in the business call... a triple threat.