Altar Boyz by Kevin Del Aguila
Music and lyrics by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker

Dates and Venue 18 June - 29 August 2009, 8pm (except Tues at 7.30pm) matinees at 2pm on Wed & Sat | Granville Island Stage

Director Bill Millerd Set Design Ted Roberts Choreographer Sara-Jeanne Hosie Musical Director Sasha Niechoda Lighting Marsha Sibthorpe Costume Design Sheila White Stage Manager Louis-Marie Bournival

Reviewer John Jane

Abraham plus Matthew, Mark, Luke and Juan (that’s right, Juan not John) are members of the Alter Boyz, a vocal quintet that croon, slide, glide in perfect harmony; all in a self-driven crusade to save our souls.

The show is hugely entertaining musical theatre. Originally conceived by Marc Kessler and Ken Davenport and staged as a high-octane pop concert, it joins the “Boyz” on the last stop of their "Raise the Praise" tour. The pluralizing “Z” is significant, since it perpetuates the send-up of stereotypical boy bands with catchy monikers like Boyz II Men, Boyzone and the recently disbanded cantopop foursome Sun Boyz.

Alter Boyz also lampoons Catholicism, but only hard-core Catholics would be likely to take any offence. The humour is delivered with such a light touch and mostly wrapped in the songs' tongue-in-cheek lyrics that much of the satirical sting is expunged.

Kevin Del Aguila’s book with its simple premise allows the quintet to dazzle the audience through the concert format. An onstage concocted device called the Sony X12 that registers the number of guilt-burdened souls in the audience helps provide the thin storyline. The Boyz manage to get the number down to zero by the end of the show.

All five performers have pleasant voices and execute Sara-Jeanne Hosie’s exaggerated choreography with the same slick precision as their real-life counterparts. And just like any ‘boy band’ each member brings his own brand of shtick. As an Asian playing a token Latino, Vincent Tong is the most noticeable - particularly when leading the group on the Latin number, “La Vida Eternal.” Jak Barradell as Luke seems to stand a little taller as the token jock; David Hurwitz as Mark is the “sensitive” one with ambiguous sexuality. Abraham, as played by Geoff Stevens is the lone Judeo member and paradoxically the most sacrosanct. Last, but not least is Jeremy Crittenden as Mark, the group’s leader. His solo performance of the playful “Something about you” (makes me want to wait) sung to an attractive, young volunteer from the audience is pure gold.

Visible to the audience throughout the whole show are musicians Sasha Niechoda, Buff Allen, Jim Hodgkinson and David Sinclair who play the ‘Boyz’ side-men.

I had, until now been spared the doubtful pleasure of attending a boy band concert performance. But this is a show that I could see again and again.

Another great season for the Artsclub! The first production for next season is Black Comedy starting on September 10th at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage.

© 2009 John Jane