PTC premieres its production of Choir Boy

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Members of the cast of Choir Boy. | Photo courtesy of Wide Eyed Studios

The Philadelphia Theatre Company recently premiered its adaptation of the Tony Award-winning play Choir Boy.

The play, which debuted on Feb. 18 at Suzanne Roberts Theatre and will run until March 3, is directed by PTC resident artist and Emmy-nominated director Jeffrey L. Page, who is making his directorial debut with the company. Page, who attended the University of the Arts, expressed his joy about returning to where it all started.  

“I feel tremendously excited to be doing work in Philadelphia,” Page said in a press release. “Philadelphia is a city that has seen me cross over from being a child into adulthood at University of the Arts. My roots run pretty deep in Philadelphia. I left Philadelphia and continued with my work. Here I am, back to conduct a group of artists in this stunning work. It feels really exciting to be back on Broad Street.”

Written by Academy Award-winning writer Tarell Alvin McCraney, Choir Boy is set at Charles R. Drew Prep School For Boys, an elite all-boys, all-Black prep school. It follows Pharus Young, the lead singer of the school choir, as he and his peers navigate issues of identity and sexuality in an environment that prides itself on tradition, with Pharus looking to challenge those expectations.

Page, who had been familiar with the play for some time, quickly became enthralled with the play, which features numerous gospel, spiritual and R&B performances.

“I was in LA and I have a vivid memory of sitting in the park reading the script and just crying,” Page said. “The way Tarell was able to find so much color and texture inside of the breath of the words in this piece, the way he was able to paint what it feels like to be not be fully, empathetically witnessed and fully regarded – to have to exist in a small space –  while everyone else has room to move and to grow wings and soar. It’s just a powerful work.”

Justen Ross, a 2021 Princess Grace Award Winner, stars as Pharus in his PTC debut. Other supporting roles include University of the Arts grad Jeremy Cousar as Bobby, Jamaal Fields-Green as AJ, Tristan Andre as Junior, Dana Orange as David, and Akeem Davis as the Headmaster.

Page said he hopes that the play will have audiences thinking about things that they either hadn’t thought about before or hadn’t in some time. 

“I think this play is a powerful work of art that has the ability to reach into any person’s deepest core and help them to discover things in themselves they have forgotten about,” Page said.

Tickets, which currently start at $35, can be purchased at www.philatheatreco.org