BWW Review: Genesis Outreach's CHOIR BOY
Attention, Fort Wayne: you have one more weekend to see CHOIR BOY at the Parkview Physicians Group ArtsLab, as part of Genesis Outreach, Inc.'s 2019 Gala. There are two reasons why you should make time to see this play. Number one: all proceeds go directly towards Genesis Outreach and assisting homeless and in-need individuals in our community. And number two: this is one heck of a show. So much so, in fact, that I'm still thinking about it almost a week later.
It's just short of a miracle that CHOIR BOY is being performed here in town, having only opening and closing on Broadway earlier this year. But I'm so glad that director Albert T. Brownlee was granted the rights for the Fort Wayne premier of this show.
The play follows a student named Pharus Young, who has been looking forward to stepping into the coveted position of leader of the gospel choir at Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys, an all-black prep school. CHOIR BOY is an exploration of both coming-of-age as well as important social issues; as a pre-show announcement at my viewing of the play explains, the playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney included both racial slurs and homophobic slurs as part of the script and the plot, not for shock value but in order to really help examine these social issues and portray them accurately. I think that this production's decision to share that information with the audience before the show was smart, because it helped to prepare us for heavier topics without spoiling the actual content of the show.
The play itself is stunning and made me want to find the script and read it myself afterwards; but in reviewing this production, I'd like to highlight the talents of THIS particular cast, because they're the ones who made the script come to life in such a spectacular fashion.
First of all, huge round of applause for the actors playing students and the way they interacted with each other and with the authority figures portrayed on stage. I came to the show with a fellow high school teacher, and we kept exchanging glances throughout the performance because it was too real. I don't even know how they managed to so accurately portray the dynamics of teenagers. Bravo all around on that.
Rodney Walker, Jr., plays Pharus, the character who the plot centers around; I don't know if he's based in Fort Wayne, but I selfishly hope he is, because I want to see him in every play, ever, from now on. From head to toe, he filled Pharus' presence with personality, and his emotional facial expressions alone brought me to tears at least twice. I cannot properly convey to you in words how thankful I was to be able to see his performance in this show; he was that good.
He's not the only member of the cast who shone brightly-- I couldn't stop thinking, "Wow." The conflict between Pharus and Bobby Morrow, nephew of the headmaster, was beyond convincing thanks to Kibwe Cooper's intense portrayal of Bobby; Keristen Baker brought pure comedy as Junior Davis, Bobby's friend; A'bby Brownlee played a poised David Heard, who serves as the choir's center of serenity and composure until the moment when he doesn't. This is just a short list, but every single cast member blew me away with their nuanced performances.
And their singing! Let's not forget to talk about their singing! The harmonious gospel songs were the other main highlight of this show, especially one in the middle of the first act with stunning choreography by Adrian Curry. This is a play, not a musical, so by definition the songs don't move the plot along; but they do provide a vivid way of emphasizing the tone of the scenes which precede or follow from them. Again: wow.
This is a truly remarkable show, because of both the thought-provoking content and the high quality of this production. And as I mentioned before, all the money raised by this benefit production will help individuals from our local community. So take your family, take your friends- spread the word that CHOIR BOY is not-to-be-missed.
The show runs 1 hour and 50 minutes, with a 10 minute intermission, at the ArtsLab downtown on Main Street, through November 3. You can get your tickets online here or at the door. CHOIR BOY'S last few performances are tonight, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30, and Sunday at 4.