Choir Boy BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Matthew Murphy
  • NY TIMES

  • DEADLINE

  • VARIETY

  • HR

  • EW

Opening Night:
January 8, 2019
Closing:
Open Ended

Theater: Samuel J. Friedman Theatre / 261 West 47th Street, New York, NY, 10036

Synopsis: 

For half a century, the Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys has been dedicated to the education of strong, ethical black men. One talented student has been waiting for years to take his rightful place as the leader of the legendary gospel choir. But can he make his way through the hallowed halls of this institution if he sings in his own key? Manhattan Theatre Club is thrilled to bring this soaring music-filled work to Broadway. Playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney is an Oscar®-winning screenwriter of Moonlight and a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship Grant. Directing is Trip Cullman (Murder Ballad).

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Choir Boy

    Review: Raising a Joyful New Voice in Tarell Alvin McCraney’s ‘Choir Boy’

    Jesse Green

    January 8, 2019: You haven’t seen a character like Pharus before. Certainly not on Broadway. It’s not just that he’s “an effeminate young man of color,” as Tarell Alvin McCraney thumbnails him in the script for “Choir Boy.” That’s like calling Evan Hansen a teen with a twitch. Which isn’t to say that Pharus, a student at an elite, mostly black all-male prep school, doesn’t have his share of mannerisms. His limbs seem to flutter without regard to propriety or one another; his voice leaps from dudgeon to delight in huge swoops of emotion; his wit lashes out in pyrotechnical displays of snap and swish. He is reflexively provocative. As the star tenor in the school’s choir, he refers to his throat, both piously and not, as “the Lord’s passageway.” So he’s definitely a handful of a gay boy, disconcerting his schoolmates and headmaster even if he’s still a virgin. But by the time Jeremy Pope, making a sensational Broadway debut in the role, gets through with him, that sketch has been filled in, roughed up and turned inside out — and with it a world of tired ideas about what it means for a man to be strong. When “Choir Boy,” which opened on Tuesday at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater, sticks to that idea, focusing on Pharus’s discovery, through exuberant music, of the brawn inside his perceived weakness, it is captivating and fresh. The portrait of his adversaries — choral and otherwise — is less so.

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  • DEADLINE REVIEW OF Choir Boy

    ‘Choir Boy’ Review: ‘Moonlight’ Writer Reaches For High Notes In Heartfelt Coming Of Age Drama

    Greg Evans

    January 8, 2019: When Choir Boy, the coming of age story from Tarell Alvin McCraney that predates his Oscar-winning, co-written screenplay for Moonlight, finds its sweet spots – and they are many – the drama, the humor and the music take off for parts unknown. This is a play that, like its unstoppable main character, never quits reaching for the high note, even when perfection is beyond its grasp. Set in a prestigious prep school for African American boys, Choir Boy – a Manhattan Theatre Club production opening tonight at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre – grapples with questions of pride and shame, sexual identity, legacies and duty. Memorably performed (particularly by its young star Jeremy Pope), its frequent choir songs beautifully sung by the entire cast, the production is another fine addition to director Trip Cullman’s resume (his Lobby Hero was one of Broadway’s 2018 bests).

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  • VARIETY REVIEW OF Choir Boy

    Broadway Review: ‘Choir Boy’

    Marilyn Stasio

    January 8, 2019: Honestly, I was afraid that “Choir Boy” — the sweetly exuberant account of a gifted prep school boy’s coming of age, written by “Moonlight” Oscar winner Tarell Alvin McCraney — would be swallowed up in a Broadway house, after winning us over in an Off Broadway staging in 2013. But aside from the odd set piece (a back wall of big bricks painted red and meaning … what?), the play transfers nicely, under the surefooted direction of Trip Cullman, from Manhattan Theatre Club’s smaller studio space. The new venue also gives the show’s sensational young lead, Jeremy Pope, more room to spread his wings and soar. Pope plays Pharus Young, a Junior at the Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys who’s refreshingly candid about being gay — so candid that Headmaster Marrow (Chuck Cooper, a rock-solid presence) is concerned that he might provoke the school bullies. “You gotta tighten up,” he advises Pharus. “Like all men hold something in.”

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  • HOLLYWOOD REPORTER REVIEW OF Choir Boy

    'Choir Boy': Theater Review

    David Rooney

    January 8, 2019: In a key scene of Tarell Alvin McCraney's affecting play Choir Boy, the central character Pharus Jonathan Young, whose swishy mannerisms make the open secret of his homosexuality impossible to ignore, argues that the traditional songs known as Negro Spirituals may or may not have contained coded clues to help runaway slaves escape their oppressors. He mounts an impassioned case that the more enduring purpose of spirituals should be evaluated in their capacity to provide courage, strength and healing even in contemporary free society: "That is the resistance." All the students of the elite Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys are navigating the passage to young black manhood with different degrees of struggle. Their only unified moments of peace and comfort come when they join their voices in heavenly song. For Pharus — played with a mix of defiant pride, cheeky flamboyance, touching confusion and gnawing erosion of his self-worth in a galvanic performance from bright new talent Jeremy Pope — the path is especially tricky. He aspires to the perceived nobility of being "a Drew man," even if that requires certain denials. His sexual desires for one, which he sublimates in his unstinting dedication to the school choir.

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  • ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY REVIEW OF Choir Boy

    Moonlight writer Tarell Alvin McCraney's Choir Boy makes a spectacular, necessary Broadway debut: EW review

    Nick Romano

    January 8, 2019: For playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, art isn’t just for amusement, escapism, or cultural critique. It’s necessary. For Pharus, the protagonist of McCraney’s Broadway debut, art is even more than that — it’s survival. Choir Boy first debuted Off Broadway in June 2013, but a lot has happened for McCraney since then. His unpublished semi-autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue became the basis for the Oscar-winning film Moonlight in 2016. With a statuette of his own from the Academy for Best Adapted Screenplay, McCraney now revisits Choir Boy for a bow at New York’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. No matter the stage, the stories of Pharus and the fellow students in his school’s gospel choir are just as significant as they were five years ago — perhaps even more so.

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