Out of the Blue

Sitting at the front of the queue, an hour before the show started, I was stung by a bee. Don’t panic, I thought. Respond. What would Julie Andrews do? I looked around but roses, kittens, brown paper packages – there were none. Fortunately, however, Out Of The Blue have always been one of my favourite things. The solution lay exactly where I was queuing.

A bit tired, starry eyes now a little bit bleary and cynical

OOTB have been a Fringe favourite of mine since I first saw them in the early 2000s and who wouldn’t love a bunch of eleven floppy haired Oxford undergraduates singing enchanting harmonies while dancing funkily? This winning formula has led the group to considerable success, with global tours, television performances, and even a private audience for fellow Oxfordian Bill Clinton. And judging by the large and enthusiastic crowd around me, I am not the only one to simply remember to book a ticket for my favourite Fringe things.

And yet. Where does a group like this go when it has gone everywhere already? When does the tiredness creep in? Looking closely and putting aside a fan’s emotion, it seems to me that the edges are fraying. The boys sing a succession of songs, doing all the harmonising themselves. It sounds very pretty (a few croaks can be forgiven mid Fringe). The highlight is a gorgeous Take On Me, led by Angus Millard. Saul Briscoe has prodigious talent. And yet how many of the performers do we really get to know? The performance stops while each one is introduced (a pet hate of mine – why do performers have to tell us their names in the middle of a show?). I would prefer to meet them and learn about their personalities through their singing of songs and characterful mucking about. This only really happens at the very end when real passion and heart is displayed in an emotional and engaging rendition by Josh Babu. But who are the others? What individuals make up the group? Who is stepping Out of the Light Blue?

In between the songs, there is a lot of promoting - social media outlets, encouragement to review them online, a CD of last year’s songs. The group reaffirm their support for Helen & Douglas House, the Oxford charity they help fund, and this is laudable. The rest, less so. Get back to the singing please.

The boys come out to meet the fans after the show and I think I hear one say that the benefit of success is that they can now do what they want. Sounds like a cash cow to me. Where are the students with a cause? What story are they trying to tell? What does the succession of songs add up to?

There is much to celebrate in what OOTB have achieved. This group has been very special but to me here they look a bit tired, starry eyes now a little bit bleary and cynical. That is not to say that their fans don’t get everything they need from the hour, as all the whooping shows. In short, nobody gets stung but for me there is not much buzz.

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The Blurb

Following their five-star, fan-favourite run at the Fringe last year, the boys are back again for their 19th year with tighter harmonies, crazier choreography and enough high-notes to reach the stratosphere! Out of the Blue is an internationally acclaimed a cappella group from the University of Oxford, and after jet-setting across the world earlier this year, the group is excited to return to their home turf to showcase new talent and new songs. Named one of the 10 must-see shows last year, don't miss your chance to see these boys for an hour of musical excellence.

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