“Choir Boy” is very moving theater! It looks at prejudice, tolerance and understanding for homosexual youth.
This play, written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, features gospel music and takes a very candid and vivid look at the hurtful, prejudicial way a homosexual boy is treated at an all-boys private prep school. He often finds it difficult to keep his head up. It is sad to watch as this young man handles all types of insults, but it’s also touching to see that, despite the attacks, he stays confident in who he is. In fact, he even briefly finds love.
McCraney deals with a subject that is very relevant in today’s society. He helps the audience see that no one has the right to judge someone because of their sexual preference. It also looks at how the adults who are in administrative positions have their own prejudices against this young man. They feel that his “problem” is something that he needs to work on.
The cast of this Manhattan Theatre Club presentation does a marvelous job. They bring wonderful performances to the stage, and when these young men sing, the harmonies are heaven-sent. They sing about how they feel at a given moment, and their feelings are so poignant that the audience is left stunned.
Jeremy Pope plays Pharus, the lead character, and he gives a phenomenal performance on so many levels. Making his New York debut in this production, he is someone to look out for in the future, as he has a natural and comfortable presence on stage. Grantham Coleman plays his roommate and friend, Anthony. Coleman’s performance was quite memorable as the roommate who understands that Pharus is gay and doesn’t care. He accepts him for the good, kind person he is.
Wallace Smith plays Bobby, a boy who is always verbally attacking Pharus and has a secret of his own. Kyle Beltran is touching as David Heard, a young man who decides he wants to be a minister but finds himself conflicted when it comes to certain issues. Nicholas L. Ashe plays Junior, and he gives a charming performance as Bobby’s best friend.
Tony winner Chuck Cooper plays Headmaster Marrow, and I was waiting to hear him sing. I wasn’t disappointed. His deep baritone resonated throughout the intimate theater. Austin Pendleton rounded out the cast and was funny as the person teaching the students about critical thinking, thinking outside the box. Director Trip Cullman manages to bring everyone’s gifts together in such a perfectly delivered performance.
“Choir Boy” is a powerful production to watch, and it manages to mesmerize the audience. In fact, whether the actors were singing a spontaneous song or just talking, the audience watched attentively so as to not miss a moment.
While the subject matter of this play may be controversial to some, it is a necessary conversation. Though be warned: This is for a mature audience, as there is nudity in the play. The production is playing at Manhattan Theatre Club’s the Studio at Stage II at New York City Center, located on West 55th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues. For more information, visit www.manhattantheatreclub.com/production/choir-boy.