The Circuit Playhouse, Memphis 2008

REVIEW:

Charming 'Altar Boyz' makes a joyful noise

By Christopher Blank, Memphis Commercial Appeal
Friday, November 28, 2008


Stephen Andrew Parker plays Luke, a member of a Christian pop quintet, in "Altar Boyz" at Circuit Playhouse.


I will keep the souvenir program under my pillow forever, write the members' names a million times in my spiral Mead, and never blink again so that residue from the heavenly spectacle shall always remain in my eyes.

Don't be jealous, kids. You still have your chance to see the Altar Boyz live in concert. Pray you don't miss them.

Director Scott Ferguson, who previously brought you "Schoolhouse Rock Live!" and "Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens" -- one for kids and one not -- has mounted the uplifting boy band spoof about a group of former Catholic acolytes who are now a wholesome pop quintet.

They won't stop until everyone feels the spirit, which makes for a fast-paced evening of cheesy praise jams, loads of synchronized dancing and plenty of adult innuendo in the otherwise G-rated script by Gary Adler, Michael Patrick Walker (music and lyrics) and Kevin Del Aguila (book).

"Altar Boyz" bears a plot resemblance to the musical "Forever Plaid," except with 'N Sync instead of a '50s-era guy group singing 4-part harmony. The Boyz are performing their last show; their "Raise the Praise Tour" has come to an end. Occasionally, even God gives them encouragement.

Let's introduce our crunk Christian crusaders, shall we? There's Matthew, (David Ryan) the group's hunky leader; Mark (Carson Turner), the guy who could be the next Clay Aiken in several respects; Luke (Stephen Andrew Parker), the male equivalent to Sporty Spice; Juan (Alvaro Francisco), the sexy Latino from Tijuana; and Abraham (Bruce Huffman), the Jewish one.

Abstinence, knowing oneself, and being strong in spirit aren't subjects that boy bands are known for singing about, but then, these are guys that moms and dads would actually encourage their daughters to have crushes on.

Even Luke, who spent time in rehab for "exhaustion," seems wholesome enough.

The characters are so earnest and well-intentioned that they even brought along a "Sony Soul Sensor," a device that counts how many unclean souls are in the audience.

Song by song, the Boyz lead their audience to salvation.

"Altar Boyz" is not a technically pristine show. The vocals are frequently lost in the sound mix, sometimes because the music is out of the actors' singing range, and sometimes because the band is overpowering.

But for a relatively small production (five singers and a rocking band led by Renee Kemper), it feels much bigger. Jesus Pacheco's choreography captures the pop synchronicity of groups like the Backstreet Boys, but with a religious twist.

The most charming aspect of "Altar Boyz" is that it pays respect to faith through five different viewpoints, while also poking fun at boy bands. No matter what you believe, "Altar Boyz" raises one's spirit with its inexhaustible goodness.

 

CAST:


David Ryan...........................Matthew

Carson Turner......................Mark

Stephen Andrew Parker.......Luke

Alvaro Barned......................Juan

Bruce Huffman.....................Abraham


STAFF:


Scott Ferguson..........Director

Jesus Pacheco...........Choreographer

Renee Kemper...........Music Director

Tim McMath...............Set Designer

Jay Morris.................Technical Director

Josh Mansker............Lighting Designer

Amie Eoff..................Costume Designer

Rory Dale...................Sound Designer

Melinda Bott..............Production Manager

Amanda Wiley...........Stage Manager

Luisa Torres..............Assistant Stage Manager

VIDEO CLIPS FROM THE SHOW!

Here is a compilation of scenes from the production. The total video clip is about 6 and a half minutes long. It may take a while to upload to your computer. But it is worth it!

**All photos by Rory Dale.

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**ALTAR BOYZ WON THE 2009 OSTRANDER AWARDS FOR

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY

and

BEST ENSEMBLE