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  Choir Boy at Raven Theatre

Choir Boy

Raven Theatre
6157 N. Clark St Chicago

Determined to make his mark like those before him, Pharus is hell-bent on being the best choir leader in his school's fifty-year history. First he must gain the respect of his peers, but he's an outsider in a world steeped in rites and rituals, a community that demands he conform.

Thru - Nov 12, 2017

Price: $46

Show Type: Drama

Box Office: 773-338-2177

Running Time: 1hr, 30mins

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  Choir Boy Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Somewhat Recommended

"...What makes "Choir Boy" such a fine piece of work is the way those questions are all considered in the context of the students' quotidian conflicts, even as this play soars lyrically in the way all of McCraney's works ascend to the poetic. The school's choir is a key part of its legacy - a nod to the fame of the singers from places such as the Tuskegee Institute (where I once spent some time) and Morehouse College. This music is a force of unity in the play, and the glue between its scenes. And its students, try as they might to pull it apart."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times - Highly Recommended

"...Throughout, in a show of grand ensemble playing across the board, the solo voices and group harmonies are superbly rendered, with music direction by Frederick Harris and winningly executed moves stylishly choreographed by Breon Arzell. Ray Toler's set (with lighting by Diane D. Fairchild and excellent sound design by Sebby Woldt) has a few fine surprises, too, in this tragicomic play about the painful process of morphing from "boy" to "man.""
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Hedy Weiss

Chicago Reader - Highly Recommended

"...McCraney's startlingly intimate writing totes up the cost to him and others. Under Michael Menendian's direction, Christopher W. Jones makes Pharus an affecting combination of cunning and vulnerability; choreographer Breon Arzell and music director Frederick Harris supply sharp musical punctuation."
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Tony Adler

Windy City Times - Highly Recommended

"...The chorale selections are performed by an adroit cast exhibiting crystalline a cappella harmonies under the vocal tutelage of Frederick Harris and choreography of Breon Arzell. This doesn't mean that playgoers are to wallow in mindless reverie as they would at a musical, however. No matter whose side we take in professor Pendleton's class discussion regarding the slave origins of the songs now called "spirituals," the palliative power of these prayers for deliverance from suffering demand our attention."
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Mary Shen Barnidge

Time Out Chicago - Somewhat Recommended

"...When a real point of contention is finally introduced late in the play, it feels both unearned and telegraphed. Michael Menendian's stiff production doesn't do the script many favors-Jones's Pharus is stuck in a single mode of abrasive superiority for far too long, and many of his castmates seem to be operating independently of one another rather than listening and reacting. The show's bright spots are the musical interludes, in which the choir boys put stirring spins on spirituals (the music direction is by Frederick Harris). If only Choir Boy's other elements could achieve such harmony."
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Kris Vire

Stage and Cinema - Recommended

"...Beautifully shaped by Frederick Harris, the songs already resonate, non-negotiably conveying the processed energy of apprentice dreamers on the exciting cusp of so much future. That euphoric affirmation ultimately overcomes the Chicago premiere's darker developments, variations in a theme of human sacrifice. Singing keeps us human."
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Lawrence Bommer

Splash Magazine - Highly Recommended

"...All the boys sing in the choir, all of them sing like angels, and their singing and dancing- as well as what we learn about the part played by gospel music in the history of black torment in America- are hands down the best parts of the play."
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Debra Davy

Around The Town Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...Raven, a leader in the Chicago theater scene, not only snared the rights, it also has brought to its stage a sparkling example of the quality of work they bring to their stages in the neighborhood. "Choir Boy" which was first presented some four years ago is a story that probably is very real. It takes place in an African-American prep school for boys. The school is the Charles R. Drew Prep School and this school is dedicated to bringing up strong ethical African-American men."
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Alan Bresloff

NewCity Chicago - Somewhat Recommended

"..."Choir Boy" is a play structured around physical and emotional violence. Where "Moonlight" illuminated the longing in the interim between things actually happening, "Choir Boy" seems more content to bide its time. In both cases, the audience is responsible for filling in these interstitial moments. However, the motivations in "Choir Boy" are more unclear than mysterious. Stigma aside, there are scenes that seem too pointed to be purely homophobic. There is a personal undercurrent in this play that we as the audience are never fully let into."
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Kevin Greene

Chicago Theatre Review - Highly Recommended

"...It is often sadly the case that a gay man in a tradition bound and highly masculine environment lives with one foot in trouble and the other on a banana peel. With every passing scene the danger we feel for Pharus mounts, even amid the beautiful spirituals the Choir shuffles out and sings loud. Yet we are behind this sweet young man all the way: in one scene when Headmaster Marrow disapproves of his limp wrist, he doggedly executes an air show of movement, quietly proving his pride and cementing our respect and affection for him. And thatís just one note in a captivating masterpiece."
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Ben Kemper

Chicagoland Theater Reviews - Highly Recommended

"..."Choir Boy" is a tricky play to do well. The script covers a multitude of themes that do not always blend, from homosexuality to slave history to the hothouse atmosphere of a boy's school. Plus, the African American traditional music must be integrated naturally into the dialogue. But Menendian and his superb acting ensemble and staff of designers have searched well, making this miniature of a play both entertaining and stimulating, a revelatory window into the mind of one of our best young playwrights."
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Dan Zeff

Chicagoland Musical Theatre - Recommended

"...The language is so investing that one could conceivably do without a full physical production ó just some chair-ography, say. And, really, the only demerit is that Ravenís is a very wide space and not particularly conducive to intimacy, which is what one would expect for an claustrophobic prep school atmosphere. Menendianís choice, then, to keep everybody somewhat separate thus makes their group interactions a sliver more unpredictable. It could either mean another burst of ugliness or an outpouring of something harmonious."
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Patrick O'Brien

Picture This Post - Highly Recommended

"...Playwright, Tarrel Alvin McCraney inserts just enough information into the dialogue to hint that each boy comes from a family with trouble - an oversexed single mother, a parent deceased way too young. These boys suffer together in a cauldron designed to launch them into Black male elitism. Pharus has a comrade in roommate in "AJ," played by Tamarus Harvell, the baseball player who is, according to Pharus, all limbs. The two develop a comfortable banter that piques curiosity in Pharus - why has AJ agreed to stay on as his roommate. Why does AJ stand naked to primp and shave in their shared bath when sexual tension is at hand?"
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Stephen Starr

  Choir Boy Photo Gallery

   This show has been Jeff Recommended*

*The designation of "Jeff Recommended" is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee.

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