Jeremy Pope in the recent Broadway production of 'Choir Boy.' Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Deeper Dive: A closer look at ‘Choir Boy’

Joyous Broadway coming-of-age play sets spirits and voices soaring

  • Choir BoyWritten by: Tarell Alvin McCraney
  • Year written: 2013
  • Broadway debut: 2019
  • Director: Jamil Jude
  • Dates: April 10-May 10 (Opens April 17)
  • Where: Space Theatre
  • The play at a glance: In this soaring coming-of-age musical drama, Pharus doesn’t fit in at The Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys. Despite embodying the strong, ethical morals the school seeks to ingrain in its black students, being gay has made him an outsider within its hallowed halls. But this year, his talent and perseverance have paid off with a chance to lead the prestigious choir, a position where he may finally shake the dogged bullying by his fellow classmates. Featuring gorgeous gospel music, you’ll want to raise your voice and cheer as one student boldly stands up to the traditions that seek to silence his voice. Tarell Alvin McCraney’s deeply human storytelling illuminates the chaotic collision of masculinity, tradition and self-discovery on the path to adulthood.
  • Quote from the script: “You gotta tighten up so that people don’t assume too much. Like all men hold some things in. See, your private life? Well, those are private. Don’t let it all out. Keep ’em guessing or … at least so they can’t ask.”
  • About the playwright: Choir Boy was the Broadway debut for Oscar-winning screenwriter Tarell Alvin McCraney, who won the Academy Award for co-writing the 2016 film “Moonlight,” based on his own play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.” McCraney, a 2007 graduate of the Yale School of Drama, is now Chair and Professor in the Practice of Playwriting at the university. He is a member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Ensemble. Among his many honors is being named a 2013 MacArthur Foundation Fellow, and winning The Paula Vogel Award, named after the playwright of Indecent, which is also on the DCPA Theatre Company’s 2019-20 season.
  • Says Artistic Director Chris Coleman: “Tarell is one of the most gifted playwrights in theatre, and he has created a unique, inspiring story. When I first saw Choir Boy in New York, I thought: ‘I haven’t seen this story on stage before.’ It was an invitation into somebody’s journey to express himself, and I think it’s a beautiful way to end the season.”

Tarell Alvin McCraney on race, sexuality and making his Broadway debut

  • Jeremy Pope in the recent Broadway production of 'Choir Boy.' Photo by Matthew Murphy.

    Jeremy Pope in the recent Broadway production of ‘Choir Boy.’ Photo by Matthew Murphy.

    From the author: “When I was Pharus’ age, I was growing up black and queer in the South, and looking to be part of a community. I always felt like I had to negotiate who I was in order to do that. I still remember going to high school and how terrifying it was to try to be open and myself and excel in all the ways that I wanted to excel.”

  • What critics have said about Choir Boy: “The experience of seeing Choir Boy is transcendent. The very presence of this play on Broadway about a black, queer teenage boy navigating private, Christian Prep school life is seismic — a fact that in turn just might make it revolutionary.” – Robert Russo, Stage Left. … “The music is joyous but, honestly, when all is said and sung, you’ve never heard a more plaintive sound than the voices of a roomful of homesick boys singing themselves to sleep with “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.” – Marilyn Stasio, Variety.
  • Fun fact: Denver audiences got their first look at McCraney’s work back in 2004 when Curious Theatre Company staged its award-winning  production of The Brothers Size. That was part of McCraney’s The Brother/Sister Plays, a trilogy set deep in the Louisiana Bayou. Curious completed the cycle with In the Red and Brown Water and Marcus; Or the Secret of Sweet … The Oscar-winnng “Moonlight” chronicles the adolescence and burgeoning adulthood of a gay African American man growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami. Who would have thought his cinematic follow-up would be a basketball film about the NBA? High Flying Bird is a big-buzz new film starring Andre Holland and Zazie Beetz and streaming right now on Netflix.

John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S. by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

Artistic Director Chris Coleman talks about ‘Choir Boy.’