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

It’s the play Miami Hurricanes fans will never forget — and Florida State fans are trying to forget. ...

Miami Hurricanes fans might recall their favorite college football players in past years dreaming of ...

The new quarterback is usually the ones fans gush over. For the University of Miami, last season it ...

Debate all you want, but University of Miami football coach Mark Richt made it clearer than ever Wed ...

Last year, when University of Miami tailback Mark Walton attended the Atlantic Coast Conference Foot ...

An ACLU report authored by UM sociologists documents racial and ethnic disparities in Miami-Dade Cou ...

Following the summit between Trump and Putin, reaction from politicians, pundits and former intellig ...

A School of Communication associate professor played an important hand—an artistic one!—in World Cup ...

University of Miami law and political science professors weigh in on Trump’s SCOTUS nominee. ...

Research bioclimatologists with the UM Synoptic Climatology Lab counsel cities on how to manage risi ...

Miami junior wide receiver Ahmmon Richards was among those named to the watch list for the 2018 Bile ...

University of Miami junior running back Travis Homer was named a preseason candidate for the Doak Wa ...

Six former Canes competed on NBA Summer League teams, with three averaging at least 10 points per ga ...

Quick Hits gives University of Miami volleyball fans an opportunity to get to know the new student-a ...

The University of Miami's volleyball team earned the American Volleyball Coaches Association (A ...

TMH Twitter
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.