“The Choir” is a heart-wrenching story about urban vocalists that will leave you in tears.
During the 14th season of America’s Got Talent in 2019, a remarkable act emerged unexpectedly. Bursting onto the stage with excitement, the Detroit Youth Choir delivered a dynamic and uplifting performance of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s “Can’t Hold Us.” The display was so impactful that the show’s host, Terry Crews, joined them on stage and tearfully declared, “Every young man and woman on this stage represents me and where I came from.” He then made a rare move by overruling the judges and pressing the golden buzzer, automatically advancing the choir to the quarter finals. This moment was unforgettable television, and the new Disney+ series, Choir, follows what transpired afterwards.
If you have seen America’s Got Talent or understand the appropriate use of a golden buzzer, then Choir likely became a top priority to watch when it was revealed. Otherwise, Choir is centered around a group of children who placed second in a talent competition five years ago because a man wearing a pink suit hit a golden plastic object. In other words, it may be a more challenging concept to grasp.
However, even without any surrounding information, Choir still has a lot to offer, as I discovered. It is essentially Last Chance U for students in the theatre, and it is just as emotional and captivating as you would imagine.
The Detroit Youth Choir is a non-profit organization that provides inner-city children with a high-quality performing arts education to prevent them from getting into trouble. Its goal is to guide and inspire ambitious kids, particularly those who are Black, to break away from predetermined paths in life. However, being a member of the Detroit Youth Choir is not easy. The competition is intense and the program’s leaders expect nothing less than perfection, especially as they search for the next big star after America’s Got Talent. The choir has the power to make or break you.
Anthony White, the artistic director of the school, has been in charge for over 20 years. He is a complex individual, often oscillating between being inspired and frustrated. While he can be tough on the students, as seen in one audition where he made multiple children cry, it is clear that he is pushing them to reach their full potential. As Crews tearfully expressed, having even just one person believe in these children can empower them to accomplish anything. This is the driving force behind White’s pursuit of the post-AGT high; he wants these youth to recognize their capabilities.
A more skeptical person may claim that the entire situation appears to be contrived. Throughout the series, White’s main goal is to bring the Detroit Youth Choir back into the spotlight by having them perform at Carnegie Hall in New York. However, this may seem unnecessary when considering that he is achieving this through a six-part documentary available on a popular streaming platform with an audience of 150 million viewers.
When discussing Disney, Choir also faces a slight challenge of having its flaws smoothed over. Other successful shows in this genre, such as Last Chance U and Cheer, tend to be more raw in their exploration of their subjects. They did not hesitate to depict how close the students were to ruining everything by giving in to their negative tendencies. They also highlighted the less desirable traits of the adults in charge and the delicate line between pushing for excellence and being a bully. While Choir does touch on these topics – at one point, White weakly justifies his strict approach with “the streets will be even tougher” – it also appears to turn a blind eye in order to focus on the uncomplicated pursuit of aspiration.
However, it’s impossible to resist its emotional impact. Similar to other shows in this category, Choir reaches a powerful moment where you witness the determination of these kids to pursue their dreams. At that point, it would take a heartless person not to be moved to tears.
The Disney+ streaming service offers access to the Choir program.