'Altar Boyz' Regional Delight
There is a praise-worthy effort afoot at Musical Theatre West, as the Long Beach company is putting on quite a show with the Regional Premiere of the Off-Broadway smash, Altar Boyz. Gaining the rights to a production still running in New York as well as being on a national tour is a feat in its own right, but MTW can also thank the heavens for a miraculous casting job with two former show alums joining in on the fun.
Altar Boyz is not your typical Broadway show, rather it is really an upbeat and fresh look at musical theatre, providing concert like staging for those not theatrically inclined, giving them a reason to rejoice.
Both director-choreographer Troy Magino and musical director John Glaudini have kept their spin on Altar Boyz sexy and soulful, proving the Christian boy-band camp fest can work as a well-oiled regional machine. Though the original work (book by Kevin Del Aguila and music and lyrics by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker) is indeed a clever base to build from.
The show follows five drastically unique religious zealots as their "Raise the Praise Tour" comes to a close in the Los Angeles area with love certainly in the air, even if some is quite taboo for a Jesus loving crew. Providing some giddy local humor (references to dreams of playing the Hollywood Bowl along with gay-friendly West Hollywood nods) there is something for every open-minded Angelino to enjoy. Even California favorite In-N-Out Burger grabs a mention, though the phrase could easily go down a more ambiguous path in this show.
Though an out and out gay mention is not made in Altar Boyz, there are many near reveals, each just as funny as the next when uttered, or rather alluded to, by the peppiest of the five characters, Mark, lovingly played by Danny Calvert (reprising the off-Broadway role). Full of all the juiciest lines and wrought with controversy, Calvert is a scene-stealer, replete with baby face good looks and blonde-frosted locks. He is most exceptional in the frisky dance-licked "Rhythm in Me."
Another former Altar Boyz cast member to rejoin the group is James Royce Edwards, who takes up as Matthew this time around, and has no problems filling the leading shoes. It is no coincidence that his bio notes working as a personal trainer, as his physique is showcased throughout. And as the object of Mark's "affection," Edwards hits all the right notes as a struggling boy-bander longing for a deal of his own.
Dan Domenech, Dan Pacheco and Tyler McGee round out the Altar Boyz crew as Juan, Abraham and Luke. Aside from their obvious Bible-inspired names, these boys are special in their own ways, including a Jewish member in, of all characters, Abraham.
Domenech is a Latin lothario as Juan, embodying Enrique Iglesias with Ricky Martin flair. Pacheco gives a kosher twirl as Abraham, proving Altar Boyz can transcend a Christian only crowd. McGee, as rapper Luke, is a break dancing madman, knocking out some top-notch dance moves while adding hilarity to the machismo role.
Kevin Clowes has provided a rainbow clad stage and metal cross in the background to accent the concert lighting of Jean-Yves Tessier and costumes by Debbie Roberts, all given life by Julie Ferrin's powerful sound design.
The only unfortunate aspect of Musical Theatre West's production of Altar Boyz is its limited engagement, which runs through May 6. Tickets range from $25 to $52 and can be purchased by calling 562-856-1999 x 4 or at the box office located at 4350 East 7th Street in Long Beach.