“Choir Boy” strikes plenty of strong chords at Centaur Theatre
Centaur Theatre – The Centaur Theatre begins its 50th anniversary season with a play that combines the beauty of gospel music harmonies with hot button issues that still burn in our collective conscience, Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “Choir Boy”, which runs at Centaur Theatre from now until October 28.
McCraney, who wrote the screenplay for the Oscar-winning film “Moonlight”, delivers a coming-of-age story that packs a social punch, and at the same time is tempered with beautifully sung chorale-style gospel and R&B music. It takes place during a year in the life of the Charles Drew Prep School for Boys, a private school that has a mission oriented towards the formation of strong, ethical Black men. The focus is on Pharus, an openly gay student at the school who is appointed choirmaster for the coming school year. While he sings the school song at its year-end commencement ceremonies – which marks his debut as choirmaster — his performance is stopped short when he is heckled by someone in the audience because of his sexual orientation.
This incident opens up a whole can of worms for Pharus and his fellow classmates who are also members of the choir, as they search for and struggle with highly personal issues –both socially and sexually – during this crucial period in their young lives, whether it be in the classroom, during choir practice, or after school hours in their dorms. And with the help and discipline of their headmaster Mr. Marrow, they try to see their way through this difficult path.
“Choir Boy” is a winner of a play that strikes a lot of strong chords of how such long searing issues like racism and homophobia can infect rather safe atmospheres like a school (private or public), and affect teenagers who are at an important – yet still vulnerable – stage in their lives. The talents of McCraney, director/renaissance man Mike Payette, and McGill University Chorus conductor Floydd Ricketts come together so effectively to create such a masterful production. And the ensemble cast delivers powerful performances that complement each other so well, especially Steven Charles as Pharus, Paul Rainville as Mr. Pendleton (who offers healthy doses of comic relief and wisdom), and Vlad Alexis in a scene-stealing performance as choir member Junior Davis.
If “Choir Boy” is any indication, then the Centaur Theatre’s 50th anniversary season is off to a magnificent start. For more information, or to purchase tickets to “Choir Boy”, call 514-288-3161 or go to www.centuartheatre.com.