Written by Kevin Del Aguila
Music & Lyrics by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker
Directed & Choreographed by Tim French
Musical direction by Michael Lerner
Performed by Ken Chamberland, Aidan deSalaiz, Jeigh Madjus, Eric Morin, Stephan Roberts.
Victoria Playhouse Petrolia
June 29 to July 10, 2010
Reviewed by Mary Alderson
Saving Souls, one dance step at a time!
The god of musical comedy is smiling down on the altar of Victoria Playhouse Petrolia this week, pleased with a cheeky little show called Altar Boyz, currently running in its sanctuary.
Five young men have had their souls saved, and they came together to form a “boy-band” Christian singing group. It’s New Kids on the Block for Catholics, praising the Lord with rock ’n roll and rap. Each young singer/dancer has a humourous story to share, as they travel the country saving souls on their final “Raise the Praise” tour.
They are especially fortunate to have the latest device in soul saving. It’s a high tech machine from Sony that tells the Altar Boyz how many people in the audience are sinners and need to have their souls revived. “God is great and so are the people at Sony,” we are told. A number flashes up on the screen after each singing, dancing testimony, telling us how many lost souls are still in the dark. The other night in Petrolia there were 52 sinners in the audience (remarkably low, I thought) but by the end of the evening the Altar Boyz substantially reduced that number, a few souls at a time. This energetic group doesn’t rest until all souls are saved.
The cast of Altar Boyz is exceptionally good. They had performed this show in Toronto in 2009 to rave reviews and VPP is fortunate to have the entire cast together again. Ken Chamberland plays Matthew, Jeigh Madjus is Mark, Eric Morin is Luke, and Aidan deSalaiz is Juan. (Now, take a look back at those characters’ names.) The fifth group member is Stephan Roberts playing Abraham, a Jew who has joined the group. “I know Jewish people are allowed here; I saw one on the cross,” he explains.
The five have good voices that blend well in harmony in the dozen songs they sing. Their dancing is excellent, with very energetic and lively choreography, better than anything on the ‘real’ boy band circuit. The moonwalk is used to demonstrate Jesus walking on water, to the audience’s delight.
This story is a cleverly written satire, poking fun at praising God in order to sell out concerts. Each member of the group has his own personality, and there is great wordplay as they toss off jokes at each other’s expense.
The song lyrics are especially witty: “Jesus called me on my cell phone, there were no roaming charges incurred … Jesus tweeted on my Twitter.” Another song, entitled “Get the hell out … of you” is directed at audience members with unclean souls. There is also a hilarious ballad on abstinence, where Matthew tells his girlfriend (a lucky volunteer from the audience) that he’ll wait until their wedding date.
Unless you remember your Bible story lessons from Sunday School, you might not get all the jokes in this show. And if you are a devout person lacking a sense of humour, you might not think it’s funny. The jokes are cheeky and slightly naughty if you want to take the double-entendres that way. Just when I was becoming a little concerned that the humour was bordering on sacrilege, the writer pulled back, and left us laughing. It’s always right to have fun at the expense of hypocrites.
Go see the Altar Boyz, enjoy yourself, and say “Amen”! You’ll be converted.
Altar Boyz continues with eight shows a week at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia until July 10. Call the box office at 1-800-717-7694 or 519-882-1221 for tickets.