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SING NOW OR FOREVER HOLD YOUR PEACE--Film Review
By Cheryl Mullen - 05/07/2007 - 11:25 AM EDT

Sing Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace. Written, produced, & directed by Bruce Leddy. Starring David Alan Basche, Chris Bowers, Samrat Chakrabarti, Alexander Chaplin, Rosemarie Dewitt, Mark Feuerstein, David Harbour, Elizabeth Reaser, Reg Rogers, Molly Shannon, Liz Stauber, Camilla Thorsson. 2006. 94 minutes. Not yet rated, but would probably get an R for nudity. Mild profanity, sexual situations.

So just what the hell am I doing reviewing a movie in this column?

Well, when the movie features contemporary a cappella, a form of music near and dear to my heart and largely ignored by the general public, you'd better believe I'm going to have something to say about it. Especially when the movie happens to be pretty damn good.

Sing Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace is the story of a collegiate a cappella group who reunites 15 years after graduation to sing at a group member's wedding. The film takes a look at how the lives of the group members have changed (for better or for worse) since leaving the academic ivory tower, interspersed with some darn fine vocal harmony.

If someone wanted to do a basic college reunion movie, the college buddies could easily have been members of a sports team or a fraternity. So what would inspire a filmmaker to do a film involving a collegiate a cappella group? The answer lies in writer/producer/director Bruce Leddy's own college experience. Leddy is an alumnus of Williams College and sang in the Williams College Octet during his years there. He later joined a Williams NYC-based alumni group called the Lemmings. In making Sing Now, Leddy's aim was to have the audience experience the close bonds (both musical and social) formed by the members of a singing group.

While all of the actors in the group have previous musical backgrounds, the majority of them did not have any a cappella experience prior to making the film. The noteworthy exception is Samrat Chakrabarti, who plays the sexually ambiguous Will Wozniak. Chakrabarti is a singer/composer/arranger/vocal percussionist/actor/writer (geez, the guy's got more slashes on his resume than a horror flick!) who has previously performed with Hyannis Sound and Five O'Clock Shadow. And like a typical New York actor, he has appeared in way too many episodes of "Law & Order". His role here allows him the unique opportunity to utilize most of his performing skills. Most, but not all. THAT would be next to impossible!

The obvious question here is whether the actors in the group actually did their own singing for the movie. The short answer is yes and no. I won't go into a detailed description of who sang what, but to sum it up: If you DON'T see the actors on the screen, it's not them singing. If you DO see the actors singing, it's (generally) the lead singer doing his own singing with the background actors lip-synching to other singers.

There are two instances where all of the actors are actually doing their own singing. One is an apropos rendition of Denis Leary's "Life's Gonna Suck When You Grow Up" (arranged by former Williams Octet/Lemmings director and current Groovebarber Kevin Weist). The other I can't really describe because it would be a spoiler of the hilarious cameo by Rockapella retiree Barry Carl. All I'm going to say about the cameo is that I will never think of Barry Manilow in the same way ever again!

The men in the group are supported in the film by the women in their respective lives. Rosemarie Dewitt plays Dana, a spouse who hears her biological clock ticking. Molly Shannon plays Trish, an uncensored free spirit who serves as a caustic counterpart to her anal-retentive husband. Liz Stauber plays Michelle, a type-A personality (think Martha Stewart, only younger). Making her debut on the big screen is Camilla Thorsson, better known for her work as a model. As Elsa the Swedish nanny, she makes the group members long for their long-lost youth.

If you're the type of person to judge a film by artsy-fartsy highbrow film critic standards, you might not like Sing Now. It doesn't say or do much of anything new. It's basically The Big Chill with fewer instruments in the soundtrack. However, if you're a regular person who just wants to plunk down your $10 and be entertained, it is well worth your money--especially if you're in your mid-30s and/or a music lover. There are some hysterically funny scenes sprinkled throughout the movie. And of course, the music is divine.

Sing Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace has not yet been rated. While most of the content is PG-13 (profanity, sexual situations), the film would probably earn an R due to its cheeky (pun intended) skinny-dipping scene. A MySpace page has been set up for this film. You can find it here.



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