Beatboxing and acapella vocalists sound pitch perfect in the unique concert ‘Gobsmacked!’
LENOX MAGEE | Contributing Writer
What do you get when you combine a reigning world champion beatboxer and an international cast of six world-class vocalists? Well, you get Gobsmacked! By definition, the British term “gobsmacked” means “utterly astonished; astounded… so surprised you cannot speak.” The amazing a capella and beatbox show lives up to that description.
Having enjoyed successful runs in London, Hong Kong and Edinburgh, Gobsmacked! is enjoying its first U.S. tour of 120 performances, including the show in Dallas, courtesy of the AT&T Performing Arts Center. The musical version of the Magnificent Seven features world-champion beatboxer Ball-Zee and an international cast, who will perform all forms of a cappella, from street corner harmonies to cutting edge multi-track live looping. They will perform both classic and contemporary songs including arrangements of tracks by The Killers, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Queen, James Brown, Adele and more.
The big draw will be Ball-Zee, known for his musical style and creative sound effects, including all kinds of drum beats, cymbals, scratches, zippers, claps and what sounds like chirping. But that almost didn’t happen. The three-time winner of the U.K. Beatbox Championship and current world titleholder, Ball-Zee — born Patrick Hurst — almost followed a much different path.
“When I [was growing up] I wanted to be a chef,” he says. “But 14 years ago my older brother came home and played a CD for me: It was a beatboxer by the name of Killa Kela. He was one of the best in the world. That was the first time I heard someone do this thing called beatboxing. It blew my mind. Before that, I never heard of beatboxing, and I didn’t know what it was. I was just making silly noises trying to make drum sounds.”
Having an affection for music was one thing, but having the aptitude was another. It didn’t take long for Ball-Zee to realize he had a natural skill for beatboxing and know it is what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
He agreed to join Gobsmacked! because he wanted to really push what he could do with beatboxing, combining that with a cappella to create something new.
“If it had been just me sitting there and doing vocal percussion, which lots of beatboxers do in a cappella groups, I don’t think I would have taken the job,” he says. “But they’re challenging me.”
It’s fair to say that Gobsmacked! can credit most of its success to groups such as North Texas-bred Pentatonix, the TV series Glee and continuing the mainstream a capella movement created by the film Pitch Perfect and its sequels (the third arrives next month). This all-singing theatrical experience is set to do for a cappella what The Three Tenors did for opera.
Joining Ball-Zee in Gobsmacked! are Marcus Collins, the 2011 runner up in the U.K. version of The X-Factor; acclaimed Norwegian singer and pianist Monika Sik-Holm; British stage actress Emilie Louise Israel; West End actor Nick Hayes, and Joanne Evans and Ed Scott who have performed with Gobsmacked! since its inception. (After the appearance here, the show heads for the Kennedy Center in Washington and many other stops into 2018.)
Only see this hour-and-a-half show if you’re willing to have some fun, witness a high-energy spectacular with not a single musical instrument to be seen other than the human voice and be ready to dance or, in the words of Ball-Zee, “come see Gobsmacked!, you will leave being Gobsmacked! We touch on songs from every era… so, there’s literally songs from every decade. It’s a fun show. We move around a lot on stage, and it’s hard work, but we absolutely love doing it. We do a mash up at the end that includes 50 songs in five minutes. You’ll enjoy crazy, new school of acapella style/beatboxing and singing.”