There seems to be an alarming number of a cappella groups at this year’s Fringe, so standing out as something rather special is all the harder. The Alleycats are thirteen vocalists (although eleven this afternoon) from the University of St. Andrews. Ignore the naff name and feline puns – album titles include Fur Play, We’re Not Kitten, Cat Touch This, and Press Paws – The Alleycats are special because they have stunning harmonies, intriguing phrasing and a broad range, from emotional, heartfelt numbers to pop belters and genres encompassing rhythm and blues, hip-hop, jazz and rock.
Originally an all-male group of friends, The Alleycats allowed female vocalists to join in 2007 – and it’s arguably the female voices that bring the real street-cred and soul to the ensemble. The stand-out tracks of the set include Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Landslide’, sung by soprano Steph Bown and Robyn’s ‘Dancing On My Own’, a genuinely affecting and emotional performance from Ayanna Coleman. Elsewhere there is some lovely boy-girl singing, particularly on Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ ‘Home’, culminating in a powerful crescendo with no cheesy dancing – for which I’m grateful.
While I preferred the more stripped-back, serious numbers, there is a great deal of excitement for songs such as ‘What is Love (Baby Don’t Hurt Me)’, Motown classic, ‘Respect’, and ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours’. The latter is a polished, tight performance, with all singers having fun, but alas! – some terrible miming of the actions in the lyrics. But the cheesiness goes down a storm and the rousing mash-up of Cheryl Cole’s ‘Call My Name’ and Destiny’s Child’s ‘Say My Name’ has half the crowd up and cheering and a well-deserved standing ovation. Special mention should also go to a wonderful version of Florence and The Machine’s ‘Shake It Out’ which has dapper tenor Ollie Hayes inviting the audience to join in for the refrain. He creates a strong, powerful sound and a sense of good-natured camaraderie.
This is a group of talented young singers who are clearly going places. My only grumble is the dodgy dancing which detracts from an otherwise professional and slick set and feels entirely out of place. Go and see them before they sell out!