Centaur’s opens with “bracing and provocative” musical

Centaur Theatre launches its 50th season next month with a musical that, based on reviews it received when it opened off-Broadway five years ago, is likely to be a smash hit here.

The play is called Choir Boy, it’s laced with uplifting gospel and joyous R ‘n B music, and the Centaur production is a prelude to the planned opening on Broadway of a separate production January 22 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.

Tarell Alvin McCraney, who wrote the play, is the Oscar winning screenwriter of the film Moonlight, and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship Grant. The Manhattan Theatre Club first commissioned the play. It is set at the Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys, dedicated to the education of strong and ethical black men. As the blurb says, “One talented student, Pharus, has been waiting for years to take his rightful place as the leader of the legendary gospel choir.”

“But can he make his way through the hallowed halls of this institution if he sings in his own key?”

Is that meant literally, figuratively, or both? Only those who attend the play will find out.

The play includes a love story that adds spice and tension to the narrative. The original performances were praised by New York critics, with such adjectives as “vivid, magnetic, and moving,” in the New York Times, and “bracing and provocative,” in the New York Post.

Mike Payette directs the Centaur production of Choir Boy, which runs from Oct. 9-28, Floydd Ricketts is musical director and arranger, Rachel Forbes designed the set and costumes, and Andrea Lundy designed the lighting.

Steven Charles, plays Pharus, one of five student choir boys in the play, Quincy Armorer, the veteran actor and artistic director of the Black Theatre Workshop, plays the headmaster, while another veteran, Paul Rainville, plays Mr. Pendleton.

The play reflects the commitment by Centaur’s new artistic director, Eda Holmes, to inject more inclusivity to the programming.

Other principal productions at the Centaur: The Children, by Lucy Kirkwood, directed by Eda Holmes, Nov. 6-25; True Crime, created by Torquil Campbell and Chris Abraham, with Julian Brown, Jan. 8-27; The Last Wife, by Kate Henning, directed by Eda Holmes, Feb. 12-March 3; The Shoplifters, written and directed by
Morris Panych, March 19-April 7; Blind Date, by Rebecca Northan, April 9-28.

Info and tickets: 514-288-3161or centaurtheatre.com/tickets.html

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