'Altar Boyz' Is A Slice of Theatrical Heaven
Book by Kevin Del Aguila, Music and Lyrics by Gary Adler & Michael Patrick Walker,Conceived by Marc Kessler and Ken Davenport, Directed by Stafford Arima, Choreography by Christopher Gattelli, Set Design by Anna Louizos, Costume Design by Gail Brassard, Cast Lighting Design by Natasha Katz, Sound Design by Simon Matthews†
Performances: Now through November 5 at the Colonial Theatre
Box Office: Through Ticketmaster at 617-931-2787 and www.broadwayacrossamerica.com, or in person at the Colonial Theatre (
It's funny, it's witty, it's energetic, and it's smart, but one only needs a single word to describe Altar Boyz-heavenly.
This fantastically funny parody channels the very best of the recurring boy band phenomenon through Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan, and Abraham-five boys saving souls and spreading the word of God nightly in cities across the globe.
In each character-and each song-one can see the spirit of boy bands past-New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync, 98 Degrees, and Menudo, with some Village People, Sly and the Family Stone, and even a smattering of Beastie Boys thrown in for good measure. And whether or not you were a fan of any of these groups the first time around, you won't be able to help but love them in this theatrical reincarnation.
Unlike like their real-life counterparts, you see, the Altar Boyz aren't afraid to play up the stereotypes and poke fun at everything under the sun-and the result is a tried and true bit of hilarious, tongue-in-cheek theatrical comedy. To be perfectly honest, I haven't laughed this hard in a very long time.
The selling point, of course, is that from the very beginning, you're not at the theatre-you're at an Altar Boyz concert, watching the musical numbers and backstage antics unfold before your very eyes. Like any good boy band, they interact with their audience from the opening number "We Are the Altar Boyz," a wonderfully choreographed and particularly energetic number, and as the show unfolds, we learn a bit about each boy: Mark is in love with Matthew, Luke has done a stint in rehab for "exhaustion," Juan is a passionate and fiery piece of work, and Abraham is Jewish. This, my friends, is the foundation of great satire.
And it's all uphill from there. The songs are catchy, the choreography is tight, the story is captivating and funny, and the Boyz themselves, well, they just keep on rocking, one song after another, with wonderfully melodic vocals that showcase the very best of the Broadway-pop fusion. Unlike their MTV parody predecessors 2ge+her, these Boyz have staying power.
As you might imagine, there's a message behind the music, but it's not the sort of in-your-face preaching one might expect from organized religion; rather, it flows in the same vein as the 2004 indie hit Saved, a satirical teen comedy about
Like any boy band, though, there are occasionally breakout performances, and in Altar Boyz, these are Nick Blaemire, who plays Abraham, and Ryan J Ratliff, who plays Mark. They are both, in a word, fantastic. Blaemire particularly stands out in "The Miracle Song," which calls for him to perform both Beastie Boys style rapping and boy band style falsetto riffs, and ensures Abraham as one of the most endearing characters of this show. Ratliff is responsible for some of the funniest and most poignant moments of this production, from an "Epiphany" that both made me laugh and gave me chills, to a particularly side-splitting performance in "The Calling." There's no doubt that Ratliff plays the dive of this boy band, but he most certainly has the voice, the talent, and the attitude onstage to pull it off flawlessly.
It's really no surprise then that Altar Boyz was nominated for (and won) legions of awards-including the 2005 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical Off-Broadway-after it's premiere at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, or that it's still running Off-Broadway. And it seems par for the course that the show has sparked a following of super-devoted fans, affectionately known as "Altarholics." My only question is, where can I sign up?
Altar Boyz isn't merely a show-it's a musical and theatrical phenomenon that transcends the confines of traditional theatre and enters into the realm of the sublime. In short, Altar Boyz is a little slice of heaven on stage. †