Choir Boy is his latest offering and sees him return to faultless form (after the less impressive Wig Out! And American Trade) telling the tale of manipulative, but likeable, Pharus Jonathan Young (Smith) the gay outsider-cum-choir master at all black, all male Charles R. Drew Prep School. Pharus has dreams of singing the school anthem in both his junior and senior year; a feat never before achieved by any student at the school. In a bid to reach his goal he dispels Bobby Marrow (Abrefa) the choirs only other tenor (and therefore only competitor) under the guise of his resent homophobic behaviour. But the move doesn’t go down well and the only support for the already isolated Pharus’ is in the form of roommate AJ James (an excellent newcomer Khali Best) who seems to be the only student Pharus can rely on. However when Pharus is beaten in a violent and brutal attack the obvious perpetrator isn’t necessary the right the one.
McCraney script is tight, funny, and brilliantly written. It initially grabs you with his laugh out loud funny lines, engaging characters and phenomenal singing but soon he leads the audience to deeper issues such as isolation, God and belief and his ever present subtext – the often painful black gay experience. However despite a large number of his plays exploring this issue McCraney always manages to depict the matter in a fresh and appealing way leaving the audience deeply affected and moved by his characters.
Designer Ultz has brought Choir Boy to life with a remarkably imaginative set that actually uses the audience as part of the students lecture hall and seamlessly transport the action from shower room to bedroom to choir rehearsal with not just ease but also creative excellence.
The script is performed by an impeccable cast of actors who portray McCraney’s host of diverse and engaging characters with a noted brilliance. There are no favourites in this equally talented ensemble; however newcomer Khali Best deserves a mentioned as he makes his professional debut after graduating from Rose Bruford only this year. Also worth of a mention is the choral singing which is nothing short of magnificent. The old Negro Spirituals transported me back with a fondness and delight, to my days growing up singing in my local church and in particular the final song Trust and Obey warmed my heart and soul in the way only a Negro Spiritual can.
Choir Boy is an absorbing and thought provoking production that sees Tarell Alvin McCraney return to exceptional form.
Reviewed By Karla Williams
Photo credit to Simon Kane
Choir Boy is playing until 6th October. The run is currently sold out but for more info and details on returns please visit: http://www.royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/choir-boy