What makes a leader? Is it someone who is brash and belligerent? Or someone with a vision of greater purpose in all actions? Someone who takes responsibility for themselves and for others?
Choir Boy is a beautiful coming of age story on friendship and the courage to be true to one’s self. It uses music to grapple complex themes of homophobia and cultural history. The show is moving, powerful, and full of heart.
Set at an all boys’ prep school for Black students, the story centres on the choir. Pharus, the charismatic and talented leader of the group, is gay but this is not openly acknowledged. He is not ashamed of who he is and takes love and joy in music and faith. He believes the Spiritual songs to be a vehicle that elevate the soul. However, his teasing nature rouses some of his classmates to annoyance at best and threats of aggression at worst. Yet, he will not report on those who use slurs against him as this will break the school’s code of honour.
Fortunately, Pharus has the support of the Headmaster (Quincy Armorer) and his compassionate roommate, AJ (the lovely Lyndz Dantiste). Mr. Pendleton (Paul Rainville), a white professor, challenges the students to think outside the box on matters of history and the choir’s music. This leads to further conflict against Pharus and culminates in an act that forces the students to reveal their true selves.
The entire cast is marvelous. As Pharus, Steven Charles, is sensational. He makes Pharus a loving young man who is also humanly flawed. Patrick Abellard is terrific as Bobby, Pharus’ antagonist, full of coiled nerves. Vlad Alexis, as Bobby’s friend Junior, brings much needed humour with sharp timing. Christopher Parker brings much compassion to David, the confused and conflicted member of the choir.
The show features wonderful Spiritual songs performed acapella with passion and pride. The rhythm is set like a march- a pace for the characters as they move forward on their paths. The set is spare and graphic. The space is almost too small for the larger than life performances.
The road to maturity can be fraught with confusion and fear. The journey is best accompanied with others who can mutually support and challenge one another. To take responsibility for the care of others and the self is the major leap into adulthood.
Photo Credit: Andrée Lanthier
Choir Boy: Presented by Centaur Theatre Company. Directed by Mike Payette. Written by Tarell Alvin McCraney. Show continues to October 28, 2018, at the Centaur Theatre, 453 St-François-Xavier, Old Montreal. For tickets call the box office at 514-288-3161 or go to www.centaurtheatre.com