“This is our Black Panther moment”
When the Centaur Theatre premiered its first show on Oct. 28, 1969, the auditorium still smelled of paint and a team of plumbers had just fixed the sprinkler system.
The opening-night production of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, originally a novel by Muriel Spark and adapted for the stage by Jay Presson Allen, was reviewed by The McGill Daily’s Randy Roddick a few days later. In this rather lackluster review, Roddick acknowledged the cast’s successful performance but also mentioned the struggles the Centaur dealt with: the colour of the theatre was “shitty” (quite literally—it was brown), and the building’s safety was only given the green light by the fire department 20 minutes before curtain call.
Roddick concluded his article with: “In the future, who knows, maybe this company will become more relevant and more exciting.” If only he could have known that the Centaur would be celebrating its golden anniversary, still hosting six to 10 shows per season and acclaiming success both locally and internationally.
This year, the Centaur opened its 50th anniversary season with Choir Boy, directed by Mike Payette and written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, who won the 2017 Oscar for his screen adaptation of Moonlight. This season’s inaugural play premiered in 2012 at the Royal Court in London and is set to debut on Broadway in December 2018.
Choir Boy is about a talented singer named Pharus (played by Steven Charles) who is trying to prove to the Drew Prep School for Boys that he is the rightful leader of their choir. The coming-of-age story showcases a cast of young black men focused on their dreams while dealing with everything life throws at them.
On Oct. 12, the opening night of the season, the Centaur Theatre was full of anticipation for the show which was nothing short of fantastic. The play began with Kanye West’s “Power” and the five choir boys on an elevated part of the stage.
It wasn’t long before pieces of banter and witty jokes got the audience laughing. The back-and-forth dialogue showed the authenticity of the characters and added to the excited atmosphere of the theatre hall. The way the actors interacted with the audience allowed the crowd to feel connected and as if they were a part of the story, possibly finding a small part of themselves in what was shown on stage. The a capella numbers were simple, yet delivered with such passion and fervor; each actor was given the opportunity to show their vocal talents.
During an interview, each of the actors said they were so excited and proud to be a part of something that, on some level, represents what they have been through in their lifetime.
Vlad Alexis, who plays Junior, said they’re “doing it for the culture” and that “this is our Black Panther moment; Wakanda really is forever.”
Patrick Abellard, who plays Bobby, said he tried to explain to his friends what the show is about, but it’s really something you have to experience first-hand. Choir Boy is raw, emotional and truthful; it’s a story of acceptance, friendship and loyalty through trials and tribulations. It is a whole-heartedly inspiring story of young black excellence.
Choir Boy runs until Oct. 28. To see what else the Centaur is showing this season, check out their website: www.centaurtheatre.com.