Manhattan Theatre Club continues its 2018-2019 season with the Broadway premiere of Tarell Alvin McCraney's Choir Boy, directed by Drama Desk Award nominee Trip Cullman, which was originally staged off-Broadway in a sold-out, twice-extended, critically acclaimed run at MTC's The Studio at Stage II at New York City Center in the summer of 2013.
Choir Boy marks the Broadway debut for playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, who is perhaps best known for his 2017 Oscar-winning screenplay for the film "Moonlight". Similar to that emotionally charged movie, Choir Boy also follows a gay, African American and his trials and tribulations in finding his place in the world. However, Choir Boy offers a very different setting - the prestigious Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys. Rising Broadway star Jeremy Pope takes on the central role of Pharus, a gifted pupil who rightfully takes his place as the leader of the school's legendary choir. Pharus also happens to be homosexual and of an unapologetic, slightly effeminate manner and McCraney delicately portrays the varied reactions of Pharus' peers and teachers with modern sensibility. From rebuked to tolerated to fully embraced, there is a deep richness to the relationships depicted on stage that both confirm and challenge society's prejudices.
But this is also a play about talent and achievement and Manhattan Theatre Club has assembled a wildly talented group of young, African American actors who breathe life into McCraney's script with remarkable onstage chemistry... and then there's the a cappella singing! The gospel-infused numbers performed by Jeremy Pope and the rest of the cast are nothing shorter than extraordinary, uplifting and exhilarating. With familiar fraternity dance steps and harmonies to die for, these young men blow the roof off the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre at every performance.
Choir Boy is a touching, modern play with the added generous bonus of songs that could well be described as the dark horse of the season. Friendship, faith, fate, family and fraternity all factor in this promising work from a shooting star playwright.
(Photos by Matthew Murphy)