Tarell Alvin McCraney has won an Oscar, a McArthur Genius Grant, and a PEN Award. He is the playwriting chair at the Yale School of Drama. And, as of January 8, he has officially made his Broadway debut with his Choir Boy. The writer behind In the Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue (on which the Oscar-winning Moonlight is based), The Brother/Sister Plays, Wig Out!, and more brings his singular voice to Manhattan Theatre Club’s main stage at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre with the play that marked his first commission out of graduate school.
The story follows Pharus, an adolescent struggling to find “acceptable” ways to express his true self and be a Drew man at the Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys. He finds his place as the leader of the choir, but his peers’ issue with his identity threaten his dream of raising his voice.
“At the end of the day what that always taught me is that at the corner of every great story, at the heart of it, is the human connection,” McCraney told Playbill. “That human connection is the thing we're always chasing after, regardless of who we are. So for us it wasn't about trying to open the play up, it was trying to dive deeper into what it actually is.”
Having debuted in the U.S. at MTC Off-Broadway in 2013, the play bowed on Broadway with original stars Jeremy Pope, Chuck Cooper, and Austin Pendleton and a rich ensemble of new talent with Nicholas L. Ashe, Daniel Bellomy, Jonathan Burke (Tuck Everlasting), Gerald Caesar (A Bronx Tale), John Clay III, Caleb Eberhardt, Marcus Gladney, and J. Quinton Johnson (Hamilton).
In the video below, the award-winning playwright, director Trip Cullman, choreographer Camille A. Brown, music director and arranger Jason Michael Webb, and the cast of Choir Boy talk about developing the work, what it took to create characters unlike Broadway has seen, and revelations behind the creation of the original musical numbers—like the secret pitch cues buried in everyday sounds!.