Edge, Reviews, Theater

Spiritual musical ‘Choir Boy’ falls flat

Photo Courtesy George Schiavone, Gablestage.org

Photo Courtesy George Schiavone, Gablestage.org

A quintet of voices croon in perfect harmony, imploring the heavens for deliverance from evil. For the students of Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys, singing in choir brings God almost within their reach. But where is He in their times of struggle on earth? GableStage, the Biltmore Hotel’s performing arts theater, grappled with the oppression of human failings in their production of “Choir Boy.”

“Choir Boy” is GableStage’s fourth production by playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, a Miami native and recipient of the 2013 MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant. Unfortunately, the show fails to live up to this first-rate pedigree.

McCraney’s script follows a path that has become well-worn in entertainment in the past several years. Pharus (Din Griffin) is a talented singer and leader of the acclaimed Charles R. Drew Prep School Choir. However, he is also ostracized by his peers because of his homosexuality. Over the course of his senior year, he must overcome bullying, loneliness and his own shame, all while creating the best choir the school has ever seen with the help of a seasoned mentor (Peter Haig).

GableStage consistently produces art that challenges the audience’s preconceived notions or turns an old idea on its head to reveal hidden depths. Thus, it is particularly disappointing that “Choir Boy” is so predictable and shallow. The story plays out by the numbers (“Glee” fans may feel a sense of déjà vu), and most of the characters are little more than sketched-out stereotypes. There are traces of a far more interesting show in “Choir Boy;” a scene in which the boys debate the significance of traditional black spirituals to contemporary African-Americans showed a glimpse of an engrossing dissection of race and heritage. But these are quickly cast aside in favor of a retelling of an established trope that breaks no new ground.

Still, “Choir Boy” has the potential to be at least an engaging character study of Pharus and his classmates, but uneven performances dragged down this opportunity. Particularly in the first third of the play, the cast seemed oddly stiff. As Pharus, Griffin sometimes came across as more arrogant than sympathetic. His best moments came out of his relationship with his roommate Anthony (Datus Puryear). Puryear was a highlight of the show, endowing the tolerant baseball player with empathy and genuine warmth.

As the cast’s angelic voices filled the theatre at the show’s conclusion, the words of their spiritual took on a greater power than their textual meaning; they were filled with a divine longing and emotion. It was this kind of transcendence that was lacking from “Choir Boy” as a whole, an absence that the production couldn’t quite manage to overcome.

 

If You Go

“Choir Boy”

Where: GableStage, 1200 Anastasia Avenue, Coral Gables, Fla.

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 22

Cost: $40-$55 ($15 student tickets are avaliable on Thursday and Sunday nights)

For more information, call 305-445-1119 or visit gablestage.org

January 27, 2015

Reporters

Madelyn Paquette


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

1. MARLINS: Jeter's Fish trade Gordon. Stanton next?: While others spend -- like the Angels to ...

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Thursday: ▪ With the first ever early signing period just two we ...

University of Miami coach Mark Richt and Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst sat on a stage poolside at the ...

Former pro wrestler and promoter The Tennessee Stud Ron Fuller was interviewed by Ryan K. Boman of T ...

The University of Miami has its future quarterback. Jarren Williams, a consensus four-star, dual-thr ...

Graduating with Comedic Timing ...

The top graduate from UM's School of Education and Human Development shines in the classroom. ...

Students in University of Miami’s School of Communication’s Orange Umbrella Student Consultancy garn ...

Through its new Leadership UMiami program, the Butler Center for Service and Leadership is empowerin ...

A Biomedical Engineering Major and campus leader, Sterlie Achille involved herself in many activitie ...

The University of Miami women's basketball team earned an impressive 65-54 win over No. 20/23 K ...

After its longest break of the season thus far, the University of Miami women's basketball team ...

Miami senior wide receiver Braxton Berrios, a double major in finance and entrepreneurship, was name ...

University of Miami head volleyball coach Jose "Keno" Gandara is excited to announce a fou ...

University of Miami women's volleyball player Brooke McDermott is an active member in the Hurri ...

TMH Twitter Feed
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.