Spotlight: Altar Boyz
First, this satirical boy band show garnered critical praise during a long and ongoing off-Broadway run; now it has spawned a handful of touring productions, including casts in Korea and Hungary (where it stars no one less than Attilla Dolhai and Arpad Zsolt Meszaros!). Apparently, the five-piece prefab genre—which provides much of the comedy here—is a thoroughly global phenomenon. There's the hunky leader, Matthew (Mathew Bucker); the wannabe street dude, Luke (Jesse JP Johnson); and the ethnic throw-in, Juan (Jay Garcia). There's also the why-am-I here Jew, Abraham (Nick Blaemire), and the flaming closet case, Mark (Ryan J Ratliff), who launches a bit too enthusiastically into the line "put it in me!" when singing about the rhythm of godliness. Given the recent uproar over the University of Minnesota's choice to stage Dario Fo's Catholic-baiting The Pope and the Witch, I wondered whether I'd see a picket line outside Pantages on opening night. To the contrary, it was a bustling and congenial crowd looking for easy laughs. And no wonder. Surely, no one besides William A. Donohue could take offense from a few gentle jabs at the intricacies of the Catholic Mass, and some spoofs on squeaky-clean religious ideals (Matthew serenades a cutie in the audience with a touching tune about how "you make me want to wait"). It was unintentionally funny to watch the cast struggle with the stubborn reserve of a Minnesota audience (I've waited for years to see a performer break down and beg the crowd to stand up and holler; the cast here instinctively seemed to realize that no degree of abasement was going to make that happen). And while the Boyz are pros, their singing is at best adequate to the task; no Justin Timberlake emerges from the pack, despite some narrative frippery about various band members signing solo record deals. By the end, I was left feeling that the show played it a bit safer than I'd expected, though the inherent perversity of the concept led to a pleasantly plastic aftertaste.
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