Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
August 17, 2012
WWJT… What would Jesus tweet? He seems to have direct, multimedia contact with the Altar Boyz , a fictional Christian boy band in a Raise the Praise tour, now making a stop at Diversionary Theatre.
Twitter wasn’t even a blip on your screen when the satirical musical opened Off Broadway in 2005, and ran for nearly five years, logging in more than 2000 performances. Just goes to show how Christ keeps on the cutting edge. As “The Calling” lyric goes, “Jesus called me on my cellphone. He beeped me. He faxed me. He emailed my soul.”
It’s all about saving souls – and product placement – as the SONY Soul Sensor scans the audience, taking its “metaphysical temperature,” toting up exactly how many sinners are in the house. The high-octane local cast does everything including standing on its head, hip hop style, to lighten your spirit and cleanse you of your foul thoughts, which they repeatedly manage to arouse.
These Boyz dance like the devil and sing in heavenly harmony. The one thing missing in this buoyant sendup is amplification. The budget seems to have been blown on lighting, which is quite striking. But there’s little concern for sound. Perhaps a miracle might make those fake prop hand- mics come to life. As it is, the solo voices are often drowned out by the vocal backup or overpowered by the fine, four-piece band. That’s something of a sin, because Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker wrote some divine lyrics.
Like the romantic ode to abstinence: “Something About You, Baby, makes me want to wait.” And then there’s “Epiphany,” when the youngest, gayest of the Boyz reveals his most closeted secret – and it’s not what you’d expect.
On the surface, it’s good clean fun, but it’s jam-packed with innuendo, blessedly enhanced by Michael Mizerany’s righteous, hilarious choreography. The costumes are cute – tight jeans go with the tight harmonies. The Boyz profess to be “ wearin ’ some bling for the King.”
Librettist Kevin Del Aguila named the Altar Boys Matthew, Mark, Luke… and Juan, in a stereotypical boy-band bow to multiculturalism. Oh yes, and Abraham, the Jewish lyricist for the band, sporting a Star of David the size of a guitar.
Each disciple sings his own gospel-truth version of the Genesis of the Altar Boyz , though the solos aren’t as strong as the team vocals. In unity, there’s strength, right? Toss a goofy Lamb Chop puppet sequence into the Amen corner, add a bit of audience participation, and voilà! Hallowed be its game.
Producer/director Noah Longton keeps things moving on a fast-track to redemption. Lead singer Hanz Enyeart is a holy- rollin ’ hottie ; as an ex-rehab tough-guy, Shaun Tuazon shows amazing grace in his b-boy moves; young Hunter Schwarz is angelic, in look and voice; Patrick Mayuyu and Nicholas Sloan provide consecrated comic relief.
Hurry, if you wanna be saved; the Boyz ’ reincarnation is brief. They may not “alter your mind,” as they promise, but you’re sure to sing their praises.
“Altar Boyz ” runs through August 19, at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights.
©2012 PAT LAUNER