Choir Boy, Riverside’s National Theatre of Parramatta | Review

Don’t have time to read the full review? Click here for a quick summary of the who, what, where and wine of this production.

Moving and melodic, Tarell Alvin McCraney’s powerful LGBTQIA+ coming of age story Choir Boy captures the teenage desperation to fit in and the beauty of those who stand out.

Pharus Young has so far successfully avoided succumbing to Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys’ dusty religious rites and masculine expectations. With only one year to left, and a prestigious role as choir leader, can he maintain his shine and gain the respect of his choristers?

Direction by Dino Dimitriadis and Zindzi Okenyo brings to life memories of just how hard high school can be for those who differ to their peers or have difficult home lives. The school halls are host to fights, play, and ad hoc counselling depending on what each student is going through outside of class, all connected by the moving harmonies of gospel music. The cast’s incredible vocal abilities are given license to stand on their own with minimal backing and each make the accompanying choreography their own, incorporating different genres and cultural influences into their own interpretation of the moves.

The students grapple with issues well beyond their maturity level or power, and the frustration and desperation is evident from start to finish. Lead Darron Hayes gives his whole self to Pharus. He is determinedly unique from his peers, and finger-snaps and struts like nothing else when he’s in his element, but is crushed by the harsh words of the other students and the lack of care from the school.

McCraney writes the school bully-esque characters to show that no child is all bad, revealing through Bobby (Zarif) and David (Theo Williams) a constant battle with conflicting emotions and impulses which they portray with sensitivity and nuance. He also creates some really tender moments between Pharus and the character of Anthony (Quinton Rofail Rich), which send home a powerful message about the importance of allyship.

The set itself is quite minimal, a blank canvas brought to life by the musical direction by Allen René Louis and lighting by Karen Norris. I always love subtle but effective costuming too, and Rita Naidu really channels this approach in her dressing of each student in a uniform styled appropriately for their character.

After gracing the Broadway stage, multiple Tony Award nominations and moving numerous audiences, Choir Boy can add an impressive and successful Australian debut to a list of achievements that will only grow longer.

Purchase your ticket to Choir Boy here.

Merlot | Wine Pairing

Merlot is a flavoursome red with similar aromas and tasting notes to bolder varietals like Shiraz and Cab Sauv but lighter in body. The subtle complexity of flavours and textures creates a velvety experience akin to the incredible harmonies of the Choir Boy cast.

My Pick: Grant Burge 2020 5th Generation Merlot, Barossa Valley, SA

A lovely medium bodied, medium tannin drop, initially you’ll taste black forest flavours like cherry and dark chocolate which turn into plum, raspberry and vanilla on the finish.

Purchase a bottle for $13-22 here.

Choir Boy, Riverside’s National Theatre of Parramatta | Tasting Notes

Aussie Season14 Feb to 11 Mar 2023, Riverside’s National Theatre of Parramatta, Sydney NSW
Ticket $$49-79
WriterTarell Alvin McCraney
DirectorDino Dimitriadis and Zindzi Okenyo
Theatre Type & GenreMusical, Gospel, LQBTQIA+
See it if you likecoming of age stories
Other InfoProduced in association with Sydney WorldPride
Wine PairingMerlot
Criteria for Wine Pairingvelvety texture, medium body, deep flavours
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