It was party central at Bristol Old Vic on Thursday evening, October 18, for press night, as pre-performance the foyer was buzzing with people ready to watch Choir Boy.
It was a great vibe for the event which marks Brooklyn native Nancy Medina's directorial debut as artistic director of the renown Bristol theatre.
The flawless performances of a coming-of-age story was theatre perfection.
But - and I am sorry to write this - I left feeling uncomfortable and yet why when everything was so brilliant?
The play tackles the complexities of sexuality, status and religious beliefs with a serious bit of school boy fumbling in the showers all trying to answer the big questions of life and living.
What was I expecting? Probably a singalong with the audience and this is my fault for seeing to many razzmatazz musicals of late.
The unaccompanied gospel harmonies were exquisite but with no shouts of hallelujah and apart from the rapturous applause at the end all seemed very quiet in the stalls.
There were occasional ripples of laughter during the all too brief comedic moments like the American Pie MILF mention.
The dancing was energetic and the singing spiritual and I wanted more and less of the long monologues.
The set was a school hall and the precision of moving stage props like the dorm beds and all the dressing and undressing (no full frontal nudity in case you are wondering) were carried out faultlessly.
It wasn’t until later that I read the play came from the award-winning pen of Tarell Alvin McCraney who co-wrote the 2016 film Moonlight that all became clear.
I disliked this film in which the main character Chiron ‘struggles with masculinity, homophobia, and accepting himself. Moonlight's story is told through colors, sounds, and subtext, and it can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. Many people, even those who aren't queer or black, can find something in this film that speaks to them’.
It did, it made me unhappy and, in a way, so did Choir Boy so the problem is me and not the play.
I loved the boy-on-boy cuddle in bed towards the end which was a heart-warming moment but young people struggling, I find painful.
My fellow theatre-goes were full of praise.
Renée Butler said: “I liked it, the voices were so good, incredible, everything was acapella.
“The harmonies were amazing, seamless, I just wished as they were a choir, they had performed one big number.
“There were a lot of references to modern day funny things like Milly Rock with Anthony Justin ‘AJ’ played by Jyuddah Jaymes making all the right dance movements."
Neave Lander said: “It was very good, the vocals were stunning, a lot of talent on stage, I loved it.
*There were quite a lot of monologues which were a little tedious but other than that it was great.”
The young, gifted and black standout performance from us went to boy-of-God David (Michael Ahomka-Lindsay) but Pharus, the leader of the legendary gospel choir at his elite, all-boys school (Terique Jarrett), Bobby (Alastair Nwachukwu) the motherless nephew of the headmaster played by Daon Broni, timid JR (Khalid Daley) all deserved the standing ovation they got in the end of the evening.
Choir Boy – it’s me not you
The role of extra tutor taken by an admirable Martin Turner as Mr Pendleton, well, I was waiting for a big reveal – did I miss it?
It is described as a beautiful, joyous play which rejoices in all that it means to march to your own drum – I’ll take that.
Choir Boy runs until Saturday, November 11.
To book oniline go to https://bristololdvic.org.uk/whats-on/choir-boy.
The Bristol Old Vic has an exciting programme which should appeal to a diverse audience of theatre lovers - more later or read here https://bristololdvic.org.uk/.
Carol Ann Deacon
PHOTOS: Top Terique Jarrett, Michael Ahomka-Lindsay, Khalid Daley, Alistair Nwachukwu, Jyuddah Jaymes
© Camilla Greenwell