Florida Studio Theatre’s Altar Boyz makes a joyful noise.
By Kay Kipling
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 40 years, you’ve probably come across one or two boy bands in your time. (Remember Menudo? Remember New Kids on the Block? Remember Backstreet Boys? OK, I’ll stop now.)
The latest boy band to hit the stage is a made-up one (well, they were all kinda made up) called Altar Boyz. This off-Broadway hit about five clean-living, religion-spouting guys who also sing and dance up a storm has arrived at Florida Studio Theatre, and no matter what age group you’re in you should probably appreciate the show’s attitude, which pokes fun at such things as abstinence, Communion wine and exorcism, but does it with such good nature it’s impossible not to go along for the ride.
The Boyz arrive onstage in a puff of (holy) smoke and immediately start moving and grooving with exactly the type of essentially meaningless (but sharp-looking) choreography we’ve all seen a thousand times. The types are well-defined: There’s Matthew (Casey Gensler), the wholesome cutie the girls all love; Luke (John Ashley Brown), the slightly offbeat rebel/bad boy; Mark (Andrew Grosshandler), who may be a little too sensitive and stylish for his own good; Juan (J.P. Moraga), the requisite Latin heartthrob; and Abraham (James LaRosa), who’s Jewish and more than a little conflicted about his status in a band that lives to praise Jesus.
From left, James LaRosa, John Ashley Brown, Casey Gensler, J.P. Moraga and Andrew Grosshandler as the Altar Boyz.
From the opening song’s lyrics (“We are the Altar Boyz…we’re gonna alter your mind”), the numbers by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker run the gamut in tempos and styles, but they all possess healthy bursts of humor while supposedly conveying a message (Jesus Called Me on My Cell Phone, Everybody Fits, etc.) The gimmick here is saving souls, as the extraordinary Soul Sensor machine tells the boys just how many need to be rescued in the audience this particular evening. I’ll let you guess how that turns out.
Altar Boyz (performed without an intermission) is 90 minutes of light, pleasant fun well performed by a talented cast. And that just may be the answer to your prayers. It’s onstage through Dec. 1 at FST; call 366-9000 or go to floridastudiotheatre.org.