After staging its US debut in 2015, Manhattan Theater Club brings Oscar-winning writer Tarell Alvin McCraney's ('Moonlight') music-filled drama, about a gifted member of a school's gospel choir, to Broadway. More…
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?
“Ferociously entertaining...’A deep, multifaceted role, and Pope's work here is monumental...In the half-decade since MTC premiered ‘Choir Boy’...McCraney has continued to finesse the already smart and satisfying piece...McCraney has made some exceptional revisions...‘Choir Boy’ feels less rushed, now, especially when it comes to the breathtaking gospel numbers...If ‘Choir Boy’ were that alone, it would be enough, but this great play, like its main character, contains multitudes.” Full Review
"'Choir Boy' is terrific, and is every bit deserving of a production on the great white way, even with its own small share of flaws...In the hands of a less confident and artful author, 'Choir Boy' could easily become well-meaning ooey-gooey claptrap. However, McCraney is no lesser author, and his script is smartly observed and rammed full of life...'Choir Boy' is, in short, a revelation of a play, and the cast currently performing at the Friedman Theatre is—dare I say—perfect." Full Review
"'Choir Boy,' grabs your heart and your soul with the exquisite performance by Jeremy Pope...It is the play's quiet moments, such as when Pharus calls his mom or A.J. comforts Pharus, that the show breaks your heart. The cast is extremely effective and wonderfully talented. We know who each of these people are, but it is the charismatic Pope, in his star-making role of Pharus, that steals the stage and our hearts...So far the best play of the year and the best performance by an actor." Full Review
“Vibrant and beautifully conceived...While both Cooper and Pendleton have been cast as stereotypes, they are needed to propel the play forward and both...can make even stereotypes feel fresh...The most remarkable and original aspect of ‘Choir Boy’ is...the actual acapella singing...Another in a long list of boarding school plays...But McCraney’s outstanding writing skills and the clever use of that chorus make ‘Choir Boy’ a most welcome and original addition to Broadway." Full Review
“An engrossing production...Scattered throughout the play are gloriously harmonized, aggressively choreographed choral sequences...I seriously hope the production receives a cast album...Some of the plot twists are outright bizarre, and other moments are left decidedly murky, which adds to the play’s sense of mystery...In any event, ‘Choir Boy’ makes for highly engrossing, personal and poignant theater. It is a smashing start to the new year on Broadway.” Full Review
"A big-hearted, gimlet-eyed portrait of young African Americans navigating class and sexual differences in private school...The result is worth a loud and proud hallelujah...Jeremy Pope’s lead performance is a whirling, glittering thing of beauty...All the actors deserve high praise for seamlessly meshing on the many musical interludes based on hymns and spirituals, which are expertly woven into the naturalism of the rest of the show by ace director Trip Cullman." Full Review
"Had McCraney limited his play simply to Pharus' journey, even told as compellingly and bravely as it is, the work would be stirring. But it's more than that because McCraney adds so many layers to his tale, including the boys' various relationships to their parents, an exploration of the realities of wealth in the African-American community, and even a much-needed outside perspective to the longtime issue of race relations." Full Review
“A knockout tale of music, homophobia, and racism told in rousing and entertaining manner...With an expanded production, a strengthened script, and the return of three of the central actors, McCraney’s play is even more powerful now...Spirituals, sung by the choir, are woven through the drama...What is most significant about these spirituals is that they are so exceptionally performed...Pope is remarkable as the self-assured singer who refuses to back down.” Full Review
“Cullman’s clear-eyed direction makes excellent use of music and movement to evoke the students’ surging emotions...Each of the performances ring oh so true...It’s hard to imagine anyone but Pope as Pharus...It is his impassioned performance that makes the play truly sing...McCraney’s soulful writing brings to mind the great August Wilson. With ‘Choir Boy’ he establishes himself as a major new voice in the theatre.” Full Review
"A soul-stirring Broadway debut...Flowing with the unsurpassed eloquence and empathy that define the award-winning playwright’s exquisite style, the coming-of-age play with music is once again directed by Trip Cullman, with an engrossing balance of vibrancy and poignancy, humor and heartbreak...The stellar cast’s compelling portrayals are enriched with soaring a cappella vocals and animated movement that express the characters’ deeply felt emotions...Don’t miss it." Full Review
“The experience of seeing the Broadway premiere of “Choir Boy” is transcendent. . The play itself, its structure and devices, is hardly revolutionary...Finely acted and beautifully told...Its red-hot simmering story and soaring music offer a nice complement to the deep freeze of winter...The very presence of this play on Broadway about a black, queer teenage boy navigating private, Christian Prep school life is seismic, and Pope offers a memorable debut in this timely and important work.” Full Review
“A new play...that allows young Black men the rich, messy humanity of any other character, rather casting them as unseen statistics...‘Choir Boy’ is nothing short of a rapture...McCraney unfurls an ensemble coming-of-age story that’s insightful and generous with every boy in the choir...In their intimately observed stories, and through soulful, rousing music interludes, McCraney illustrates the specific cultural forces that shape the conventions of Black masculinity." Full Review
"Addressing issues of class, privilege, and homophobia within this community of colour, the play combines humour with pathos...Cullman’s production balances playfulness with an increasing sense of tension...Music and movement are central to the production...Traditional black spirituals provide cultural context and connect these boys to their history. These interludes also permit the characters to express themselves in ways that are not verbal – to move beyond words.” Full Review
"Director Cullman combines all the elements of writing, acting, and design to create a play that is equally powerful and emotionally moving. The pacing is perfect and poignant ...Playwright McCraney often uses music in the way a musical does, to heighten emotion and express the feeling of a scene, but even more haunting is the Cullman’s strategic use of silence: he makes us sit in the uncomfortable and the painful in ways that are remarkably evocative." Full Review
"Solidifies Cullman's reputation as one of the brightest young directors...McCraney brilliantly captures complex characters that are not just archetypes, but delves into the debate between morality and righteousness. If 90 percent of directing is getting the right cast, Cullman nails it with a superb, talented group of actors, mostly young men who have never graced the Broadway stage before...'Choir Boy' is a necessary play considering our growing social and political discord." Full Review
“McCraney refuses to settle for a modern, coming-of-age story...He starts there and incorporates—and implicates—the rest of humanity...‘Choir Boy’ succeeds not just because of its words and themes...It is impossible not to be swept away by the soaring, a cappella heights of the show’s songs and its use of complex, explosive dance movement...The production is sumptuously, sensitively directed...This is a play that exquisitely balances light and dark, hope and despair.” Full Review
“The tension is quickly spotted along with the glorious harmonies in the touching, beautifully written, ‘Choir Boy,’ a coming-of-age play...A stunning production...Cullman tightly steers his cast with meticulously deep characterizations and a fluid moving story...’Choir Boy’ shines brightly with the emotions and humor of human essence, young exuberant talent and glorious musical sequences, as well as the energy and infectious Jeremy Pope as Phalus Young.” Full Review
"A layered and muscular one-act with music, drama, comedy and a loaded title...If one of the performed numbers, Boys to Men by New Edition, is a little too on the nose, nearly every other moment of this unique play, first staged off Broadway in 2013, buzzes with tension or glides into joy...Pope handles these transitions effortlessly, creating a vivid, capable and graceful character. His cast mates are equally skilled, and aided in no small amount by the clever direction of Trip Cullman." Full Review
"Sweet, sad, substantive play. With nimble direction by Trip Cullman and a lively cast mostly of Broadway newcomers performing some soulful music, it doubles as a glorious entertainment...Each of these characters arguably illustrates for us what it means to become a black man in America, giving a freshness to what is in broad outline a familiar boarding school coming-of-age story." Full Review
"While the play takes place in contemporary times, McCraney and Cullman’s warmly affectionate tone gives it the kind of nostalgic feel that's familiar to the genre. And the issues that arise in the piece do have a touch of familiarity. What isn't familiar, though, is placing a young gay man of color - one who feels he has nothing to hide - at the center of it all, considerably raising the significance of placing a play like ‘Choir Boy’ in front of Broadway audiences.” Full Review
“Sweetly exuberant...The play transfers nicely, under the surefooted direction of Trip Cullman...The new venue also gives the show’s sensational young lead, Jeremy Pope, more room to spread his wings and soar...Pharus is a strange and wonderful character with the courage to be his own exceptional self...The music is joyous...The songs follow an arc from familiar hymns sung in strict choral harmony to less formal, but meaningful solos. Everyone gets his moment." Full Review
"Important and engaging...Under Trip Cullman’s sensitive and discerning direction, and with the full support of the dynamic cast, Mr. Pope and Mr. Clay III wrestle with the relentless demons of homophobia and racism and deliver engaging performances that are solidly related to their disparate conflicts." Full Review
“Cullman has a buoyant feel for the play’s comedy and...gives ‘Choir Boy’s’ songs the front-and-center treatment they deserve. The play is an undercover, and gorgeous, a cappella musical, kept aloft by the extraordinary vocal talents of its cast...McCraney’s scenes don’t always boil with the same urgency...But if the play sometimes wobbles a bit in its forward motion, it never loses its sense of lift, of reaching upward. Its performers and its music keep it flying.” Full Review
“A stirringly acted drama about desire, masculinity, and identity...The songs are beautiful, and beautifully sung, if sometimes puzzlingly placed...Pharus' refusal to obviously define himself, or for the play to define him, is key to the play and yet dramatically it is also a flaw...The play unloads key pieces of information and lets them sit unelaborated upon. These oddities do not undermine Pope and Clay's excellent performances, or the power of a story about the cost of coming out." Full Review
“In this revival of McCraney’s spirited and heart warming drama you’ll many times feel you’ve been warmly wrapped in the arms of the spirituals sung in gorgeous harmonies...You’ll hear some glorious spirituals, peppered with many insightful performances, in this coming of age story directed by Cullman who keeps a sharp eye on the fun stuff, with...well thought out scenic and costume designs, lighting...and notably strong choreography.” Full Review
See it if You’re looking for loved Moonlight, want to see a powerful ensemble who are triple threats, masterful storytelling, something truly fresh
Don't see it if You’re uncomfortable with homosexual storylines
See it if You want to watch an intense, poignant, powerful story about the lives of young black men and how often their voices are not heard.
Don't see it if You’re a racist or a homophobe.
See it if You appreciate good theater. It’s the modern Take Me Out/History Boys/etc. Utter perfection from start to finish. But not for everyone...
Don't see it if Your first comment will be ‘i didn’t think shows should have so few people. They should be cheaper if they do’ like the people behind me 🤷�
See it if you enjoy actors with fabulous voices singing a cappella. See it to remind yourself what it is like to be a young gay person.
Don't see it if gay-themed shows, male nudity, or the use of the "N" word bother you.
See it if You are interested in how young men aspiring to honor relate to their peers and teachers in a boarding school setting.
Don't see it if You don’t like plays focused on the sexual and maturational conflicts of adolescence.
See it if you enjoy heartfelt stories of masculinity and self discovery. You've ever admired a male chorus or choir or like inspirational music.
Don't see it if you are self doubting or homophobic. Avoid it if you are put off by Black males and their stories.
See it if you enjoy acapella singing. Intense plot, fast paced, and very well acted. A great and very relevant evening of theater.
Don't see it if you are uncomfortable with gay themes.
See it if exceptional, insightful writing, performance, direction and choreography of challenging and emotional material is what your idea of theatre
Don't see it if racial or sexually overt themes make you uncomfortable including some subtle nudity.
See it if you want to see a well-written, timely play about being gay in an oppressive culture. Great ensemble work!! Wonderful singing.
Don't see it if you are uncomfortable with gay-themed plays or male nudity.
See it if the story is so well told and so moving...the harmonizing was amazing and when they started stepping i was on the edge of my seat. fresh
Don't see it if you want something light & funny, this isnt it. very emotional and you will likely cry
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