Choir Boy (Broadway)
Choir Boy (Broadway)
84

Choir Boy (Broadway) NYC Reviews and Tickets

84%
(428 Reviews)
Positive
93%
Mixed
6%
Negative
1%
Members say
Great singing, Great acting, Absorbing, Relevant, Entertaining

About the Show

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.

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Member Reviews (428)

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91
Relevant, Great writing, Great acting, Absorbing, Resonant

See it if You want to expand your heart understanding of just some of the challenges that young gay black men face. Beautifully written/acted/sung.

Don't see it if You’re homophobic or racist. You should, but don’t bother, you won’t get it.

85
Absorbing, Poignant, Disturbing, Sexual coming-of-age, Great singing

See it if Wrenching boarding school coming-of-age story. A flamboyantly gay student makes life hard for the others. Spiritual, moving acapella songs.

Don't see it if You aren’t up for confused, angry teenage characters dealing w/ school pressures & sexual discomfort. Frequent rear male nudity.

Critic Reviews (57)

The New York Times
January 8th, 2019

"When ‘Choir Boy’ 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...A production, that is far more powerful than its flaws might indicate. It is especially successful in suggesting how a victim of prejudice, blamed as the source of the problem instead of those who victimize him, may eventually come to see himself that way."
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Time Out New York
January 8th, 2019

“In McCraney’s absorbing drama...the superb Pope plays Pharus...For Pharus, music is both an escape route and a destination unto itself, and ‘Choir Boy’ is suffused with it...The choir performs gorgeous musical numbers...Most are traditional Negro spirituals, and they feel transcendent...The rest of ‘Choir Boy’ is not always up to their level...The ending has been revised...But many of the changes are not improvements...At its best, the play is specific, lyrical and touching."
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New York Magazine / Vulture
January 8th, 2019

“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.”
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The Hollywood Reporter
January 8th, 2019

"The specificity of a black middle-class milieu, plus the writer's sharp ear for dialogue and his observations on class, race and sexuality, give McCraney's play distinctive qualities that outweigh its more conventional aspects...Cullman guides the production with a brisk, assured hand...but the distended length points up some ambling stretches in which the play's thrust loses force...The frequent detours into song can be relied upon to keep recapturing the emotional intensity."
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Entertainment Weekly
January 8th, 2019

“Played by the strikingly talented, fresh-faced Pope, Pharus, a young gay black teen, struggles to exist at the Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys...Each member of the cast offers something nuanced to complement the struggles...But these strong performances also diminish the ending. The characters don’t evolve much from where they begin the story...Nothing changes. Perhaps that’s the point. The music, meanwhile, does. "
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Variety
January 8th, 2019

“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."
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The Wall Street Journal
January 17th, 2019

"Mr. McCraney’s characterizations are as lazy as his plot is familiar...To the extent that 'Choir Boy' is worth seeing, it’s mainly because of Trip Cullman’s staging—every dramatic gesture hits its target with preternatural precision—and his marvelous ensemble cast...For all the delights of Mr. Cullman’s production, 'Choir Boy' is what it is and no more, a slick, unchallenging show that is going over big at the box office because it tells us what we want to hear."
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Deadline
January 8th, 2019

“This is a play that, like its unstoppable main character, never quits reaching for the high note, even when perfection is beyond its grasp...Memorably performed, its frequent choir songs beautifully sung by the entire cast, the production is another fine addition to Cullman’s resume...Its wonderful cast does well...Narrative issues notwithstanding, ‘Choir Boy’ is often thrilling, especially when its young ensemble gathers for the a capella spirituals sprinkled throughout.”
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AM New York
January 8th, 2019

“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.”
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NY1
January 8th, 2019

“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.”
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Theatermania
January 8th, 2019

“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.”
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BroadwayWorld
January 9th, 2019

"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.”
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Lighting & Sound America
January 11th, 2019

“Pharus' life on a psychological tightrope is honestly and fearlessly rendered throughout, for which the director has provided a sleek, fast-moving, generally well-acted production. The playwright has built a number of spirituals into the action, each...rendered in harmonies so beautiful they can bring tears...A certain sketchiness plagues ‘Choir Boy’...The principals could use some fleshing out...Still, McCraney conjures this hothouse world with mordant wit and warmth."
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Talkin' Broadway
January 8th, 2019

“Utterly up-to-the-minute...But...it leaves a thread or two hanging. Part of the difficulty is structural: Fine choral singing, often-fine drama, but how neatly do they coexist?...The transitions from song to scene and back can feel arbitrary and unmotivated...McCraney is to be congratulated for giving a minority subgroup a voice it needs and has too often lacked. But has he written a tidy, concise, consistently absorbing and probing play? Not quite.”
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New York Stage Review
January 8th, 2019

“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.”
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New York Stage Review
January 8th, 2019

“McCraney’s tender coming-of-age drama...McCraney has endowed Pharus with a war chest full of wisecracks, an arsenal of verbal armor to guard against homophobic high school classmates and hypercritical educators...As far as portraits of young gay men coming to terms with their sexuality, McCraney has dug deeper, and to greater effect...The choral music is rich and rousing. And the choreography positively electric.”
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Theater News Online
January 13th, 2019

"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."
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Theater News Online
January 11th, 2019

"The gifted director Trip Cullman conjures a gorgeous conspiracy of elements – aural, dramatic and visual – in making the strongest possible case for Tarell Alvin McCraney’s affectingly sentimental memory play...How Pharus negotiates the treacherous waters of Drew, sometimes with success and as often in heartbreaking failure, is the subject...The boys in the group, guided by music director Webb, make an angelic sound and are given frequent chances to amaze us."
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Broadway News
January 8th, 2019

“The preternaturally gifted Jeremy Pope plays the title role...McCraney writes heightened, lyrical dramatic language....His characters are rich in human complexity and as a result we care deeply about what happens to them...The script seems to be on the point of ending multiple times, but ultimately resolves in a satisfying coda...Cullman is in complete command here, guiding his actors toward characterizations that are explicit and chiseled."
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TheaterScene.net
January 15th, 2019

"You may find yourself wishing that director Trip Cullman worked more closely with playwright McCraney to cut some of the confusing loose ends and what might be referred to as the dramatic fat. And in contrast with Pope and Pendleton, the usually boisterous Chuck Cooper proves disappointing as the Headmaster--surprisingly confined, when he should have been more in charge--not to mention, more engaged and engaging."
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Theatre is Easy
January 9th, 2019

“Song speaks louder than words in McCraney's Broadway debut...The unsettling, playful, puzzling drama...Pope’s effervescent performance stands out...Cullman, whose lucid, detailed staging lends focus to a script that, while consistently compelling, sometimes gets away from itself...’Choir Boy’ suffers from the early scenes’ premonitions of plotlessness...’Choir Boy’ isn’t a play about inaction, it’s a play about resilience...And that is something worth singing about.”
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Theater Pizzazz
January 11th, 2019

“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.”
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CurtainUp
January 9th, 2019

“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."
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Front Row Center
January 10th, 2019

"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."
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Front Mezz Junkies
January 16th, 2019

"It is filled to the brim with gorgeous singing, kind and loving humorous and harmonious connection, and painful punches to the gut and to the head...It’s a star making performance by Jeremy Pope...As directed with a strong-arm for conflict and a precise ear for song, Trip Cullman keeps this one-act play moving clearly and lightly, like a fine-tuned orchestra performing a classic piece of Mozart."
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T
March 6th, 2019

"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."
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C
January 8th, 2019

"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."
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Theatre's Leiter Side
January 10th, 2019

"McCraney's play engages with sexual and racial issues…These are well conveyed by McCraney's dialogue, although its crafting sometimes seems too carefully designed for dramatic effect and not what boys of this age would normally say…What many will take away…are its musical interpolations, sung acapella in exquisite harmonies…Everything is well timed and fluid. On the other hand, there's a theatrical overlay that makes the boys seem more like they're performing than being."
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DC Theatre Scene
January 10th, 2019

"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."
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Times Square Chronicles
January 13th, 2019

"'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."
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The Guardian (UK)
January 8th, 2019

“The Oscar-winning 'Moonlight' writer transfers his musical to a bigger venue and, while there are missteps, the songs bring the house down...The play works best as a jewel-faceted character study with Pope tenderly inhabiting a young man hungry for love and respect...A play needs a plot and this one is only lightly sketched...The tension between the richness of the characters and the thinness of the story isn’t always held with grace.”
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Upstage-Downstage
January 8th, 2019

“While McCraney cannot avoid revisiting coming-of-age themes about youthful angst we’ve seen before...’Choir Boy’ offers a fresh take by making race an essential component of the play. The playwright also provides us with more nuanced characterizations...Despite some flaws, as when the playwright slips into easy (if genuinely funny) jokey punch lines instead of dealing directly with some of the issues, ‘Choir Boy’ is splendidly performed and beautifully directed by Cullman."
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The Wrap
January 8th, 2019

“’Choir Boy’ is laced with music...Pope’s vocals can be more than a little indulgent, which might be the point...’Choir Boy’ ends with one of those gooey emotionally charged moments...It’s patronizing and rings false. Still there’s a real lethal power...McCraney provides an exhilarating ride through the sexually charged atmosphere of locker rooms and dorm rooms...Cullman’s strong direction is emblematic of that strength, driving ‘Choir Boy’ into a fast-moving, testosterone-fueled freight train.”
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Wolf Entertainment Guide
January 10th, 2019

“Here is another case in which the performances exceed the caliber of the play...The cast is a stalwart one...But the play abounds in plot clichés, seems overlong...and abounds in predictable situations...Much seems contrived. However, the choral singing, mostly of religious songs, but enhanced on occasion by some well-choreographed modern riffs, brighten the show. And always there is the assembly of fine performances.”
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T
January 11th, 2019

“Bobby is offended at Pharus’ implied conflation of black and gay oppression and therein is the central conflict of the play: inclusion versus separation...McCraney explores the myriad variations on this theme in a compelling hour and 45 minutes, staged with economy and passion by Trip Cullman, punctuated by stirring gospel numbers featuring Jason Michael Webb’s dynamic arrangements and Camille A. Brown’s exciting movement."
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Stage Left
January 14th, 2019

“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.”
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Towleroad
January 9th, 2019

“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."
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Daily Beast
January 8th, 2019

“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."
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DC Metro Theater Arts
January 12th, 2019

"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."
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Financial Times (UK)
January 9th, 2019

“A startling play...’Choir Boy’ is packed with short, punchy scenes that often seem rather hurried in Trip Cullman’s interval-less 105-minute staging...Lively renditions of gospel songs between scenes are also slightly marred by some platitudinous choreography, as the students repeatedly stomp about the stage. 'Choir Boy' is nonetheless an often startling and provocative work, which features a remarkably assured and charismatic central performance by Jeremy Pope as Pharus.”
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City Cabaret
February 1st, 2019

“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.”
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TheaterScene.com
January 21st, 2019

"McCraney’s writing vibrates with a universal appeal in its understanding of the turmoils of simply growing up and in colorfully revealing the foibles and the strengths of his characters...With Trip Cullman, who directed the original production, again guiding the proceedings, the script is given a life that crackles with urgency and meaning...Has the earmarks of become a seminal work of its time."
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scribicide
January 19th, 2019

"[L]oneliness itself [is] the subject of Tarell Alvin McCraney's sweet, simple, and moving Broadway debut."
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NewNowNext.com
January 14th, 2019

"While not pursuing an air-tight narrative, impressionistically follows Pharus as he navigates his place in an all-male landscape fraught with landmines, while grappling with ways to express his gayness...McCraney’s writing is crisp—one of the best sections has Pharus explaining the power of spirituals—and Cullman’s kinetic direction gets expert performances out of Pope in the lead role, Cooper as the flustered headmaster, and Pendleton as a well-meaning new teacher."
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Newsday
January 8th, 2019

“Set in an elite prep school — hardly earthshaking for this kind of coming-of-age drama — the play is centered on the institution’s renowned gospel choir and its incoming leader...It's tempting to throw in the towel on the overdose of teenage angst we've seen on and off Broadway in recent years. Fortunately, this show redeems itself with magnificent a cappella vocals and spot-on performances from the uniformly strong cast."
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The Stage (UK)
January 8th, 2019

"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.”
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W
January 12th, 2019

“McCraney has written a spectacular — and spectacularly complex — character in Pharus...Brought to life by an extraordinary...Pope, Pharus feels like a real teenager who is struggling to reconcile all the different aspects of his identity...He'll make you cry, and then cheer. Yet the rest of the show doesn't live up to Pharus' promise. There are too many tropes...The plot doesn't really make sense. And the songs seem to be thrown in willy-nilly...But as a character study, 'Choir Boy' is simply unparalleled."
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StageZine
January 10th, 2019

"The problem here is the story—what there is of it—is riddled with clichés and has little substance...It’s a story that should be told, but it was told better in 'Moonlight'...What is worse is that there is no focus from director Trip Cullman to give it a more cohesive narrative and badly needed fine-tuning. The redeeming grace is Jeremy Pope as Pharus. He originated this role in 2013 off Broadway, and gives the play the anchor it so desperately needs."
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Off Script with Dan Dwyer
January 17th, 2019

"Besides being one of the most creatively-told gay coming of age dramas, 'Choir Boy' has one of the best ensembles that have graced a Broadway stage...What makes 'Choir Boy' unique is how McCraney and musical director Jason Michael Webb incorporate acapella song into the drama, borrowing from spirituals, gospel, folk and pop... Director Tripp Cullman does his best work yet."
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Medium
January 11th, 2019

"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."
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BroadwaySelect
January 14th, 2019

"Jeremy Pope is magnificent as Pharus. How you’ll wish you could have had his backbone when you were in school dealing with your teachers. Under Trip Cullman’s beautifully restrained direction, Pope makes Pharus only semi-flamboyant and Anthony, his straight roommate, not overly butch...Some of the best musical moments currently on Broadway. It’s a very good play, if not a great one."
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Show Showdown
January 21st, 2019

“Poignant, moving, and lovely. A coming-of-age drama...’Choir Boy’ places focus on the personal development of a single gay, black, male character...Scenes are frequently punctuated by choreographed choral arrangements of gospel chestnuts...Some are more sophisticated than others, but the concept works consistently...The supporting characters don't have the depth or nuance of Pharus. They're engaging enough...And anyway, this is Pharus's story."
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T
January 17th, 2019

"That is the beauty of the story, which is neither moralizing nor derogatory about societal norms. It just lays out a situation, and allows us to share what is positively achieved by taking one’s own path. The gifted ensemble carries the story beautifully, and casually to a positive outcome...Director Trip Cullman mines the material with sensitivity."
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Journal Inquirer
January 17th, 2019

"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."
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S
January 8th, 2019

“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.”
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Theatre Arts Daily
January 20th, 2019

"'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."
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Out Magazine
January 9th, 2019

“The hype is real...’Choir Boy’ is exactly what Broadway, and the greater world, needs...At its core, ‘Choir Boy’ is a response to the Great White Way and how Black characters... are often rendered...While the acting isn’t as lived-in as I’d like and the pacing isn’t as smooth as I’m sure it’s intended...’Choir Boy’ soars...when the ensemble comes together...’Choir Boy’ is something unique. It’s Black, queer, and uncompromising about it all.”
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