Three Boston Conservatory Students Take the Stage in Mariah Carey's Christmas Concert

December 20, 2019 Annette Fantasia


This time of year, scores of Boston Conservatory at Berklee students, alumni, and faculty light up stages with their artistry, bringing seasonal joy to audiences across the country. On December 13 at the Boch Center Wang Theatre, three Conservatory students did just that—this time, alongside a certain pop superstar whose voice has become practically synonymous with Christmas: Mariah Carey.

The concert was one of the final stops in Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You tour, a wildly popular holiday extravaganza that the legendary singer has presented since 2014. Musical theater students Dwayne Mitchell (M.F.A. '20), Thomas Purvis (B.F.A. '21), and Nigel Richards (B.F.A. '21) sang in Carey’s gospel choir on four songs from her iconic 1994 album Merry Christmas, including “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” which just recently reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

“It was honestly one of the most surprising things in my entire life, and just so amazing that I got to share this experience with two of my friends from school,” says Purvis, who, along with Mitchell and Richards, performed in SpeakEasy Stage Company’s production of the musical Choir Boy. The students were contacted by the production’s music director, David Freeman Coleman, who was approached by Carey’s team.

Choir Boy cast

From left to right, Conservatory alumnus Isaiah Reynolds, current students Dwayne Mitchell, Nigel Richards, Thomas Purvis, and Aaron Patterson, and castmates Jaimar Brown and Antione Gray perform in SpeakEasy Stage’s production of Choir Boy. Photo by Nile Scott Studios.

Choir Boy, a coming-of-age story about a gospel choir at an elite prep school for African American men, ran at SpeakEasy Stage Company this fall to wide acclaim. Teeming with Conservatory talent, the cast featured Mitchell, Purvis, and Richards, as well as their classmate Aaron Patterson (B.F.A. '21) and alumnus Isaiah Reynolds (B.F.A. '18) as the main character Pharus Young. The musical’s soaring a capella music, featuring gospel, spirituals, and R&B, was punctuated by choreography by alumna Yewande Odetoyinbo (M.F.A. '18) and dance faculty member Ruka Hatua-Saar White.

Performing in the gospel-driven musical, combined with the Conservatory’s comprehensive training, helped prepare the students for the monumental experience of performing with Carey. As Richards, a Marillyn Zacharis Scholar, explains, “In school, I've had to learn music and choreography within minutes and perform it well, and that definitely helped here.”

For each of the students, performing at this level drove home the importance of preparation and being willing to dive into game-changing opportunities. “At any moment, your life can immediately be changed,” says Purvis, a John Foster Scholar. “It’s about how well you prepare and deal with it.”

Mitchell adds that the experience underscored “the importance of being able to network both inside and outside of the classroom.”

Beyond the obvious thrill of getting to perform with a musical legend, Mitchell, Purvis, and Richards were especially moved by the sheer joy of the audience and the fact that they were able to share this once-in-a-lifetime experience with one another. “It was incredible to be able to sing behind such a legend but also to watch as she put a smile on each of the audience members' faces,” says Mitchell.

Learn more about Boston Conservatory at Berklee’s leading theater programs.