Venice Theatre’s Altar Boyz.
It’s not hard to see why Altar Boyz, the musical comedy about a boy band that travels the county praising Jesus (with book by Kevin Del Aguila and songs by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker), has been such a popular show around the country in the past few years. Seeing the current spirited production in Venice Theatre’s cabaret series, with its five-member ensemble under the direction (and choreography) of Steven Flaa, is just another reminder of its charms.
You don’t have to be that familiar with the phenomenon of boy bands like ’N Sync or the like to enjoy Altar Boyz, which places Matthew (Dick Baker), Mark (Bradley Vile), Luke (Matty Colonna), Juan (Albert J. Jennings) and Abraham (Nidal Zarour) on the final night of their tour and ready to save some more souls. Each “boy” has his own more or less defining trait: Matthew is the cute, seemingly perfect leader, Mark the sweet, fey one, Luke the sort-of juvenile delinquent who’s recently out of rehab for “exhaustion,” Juan the open-shirted, gold chain-wearing chico, and Abraham—well, this Jewish boy is clearly in the wrong band, and yet he does seem to belong.
The conceit is clever enough, and well staged enough with fist-pumping energy and lots of smiles and sweat, to sustain approximately 90 minutes (with no intermission). And while there are spoofs of such religious staples as miracles and exorcism, Altar Boyz successfully walks the fine line of being fun without being sacrilegious.
All of the actors are strong singers and dancers as well, and they execute Flaa’s routines (themselves convincing representations of their genre) with some precision. Credit also goes to music director Drew Rienstra and his band, who keep the pace moving with gusto on songs like Jesus Called Me on My Cell Phone and La Vida Eternal and even the tongue-in-cheek Girl, You Make Me Wanna Wait (performed with the “help” of a female audience member).
I could say more about the humor value of each of the show’s songs, but I don’t want to spoil any surprises in case you haven’t seen Altar Boyz before. It continues through March 4 in the Pinkerton Theatre; call 488-1115 or go to venicestage.com.