By Daniel Skora
It’s safe to say that Christian Rock has never been blessed with a musical group as unconventional as the Altar Boyz. Irreverent, brazen, and streetwise, the Boyz put a face to Christianity that you won’t see in church. They’re doing the final concert of their Raise the Praise Tour right here in Rochester MI, and Meadow Brook Theatre is fortunate to be the place where it’s all happening (at least that’s the premise). And as a special incentive to see the show, the Boyz have brought along the latest creation of the digital age, the DX-12 Soul Sensor, which allows them to instantaneously see whether their message is getting through and just how many of those in attendance have yet to be liberated from their burdened souls.
The musical parody “Altar Boyz” is the creation of Marc Kessler and Ken Davenport with book by Kevin Del Aguila and music and lyrics by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker. It’s the ninth longest-running Off-Broadway musical of all time, and while it pokes fun at Christianity, Catholicism, and the boy band concept, it’s all done with a light-hearted tongue-in-cheek attitude.
The five members of the group are: Matthew (Lucas Wells), the group’s leader and lady’s man; Mark (Ben Garrett) who makes a less-than-honest confession in the coming out song “Epiphany”; Ricky Gee (Luke), is the leather-clad tattooed street kid who’s just returned to the group from what’s called a bout with “exhaustion; Juan (Danny Bevins), the Hispanic member of the group who has combined the tour with a search for his parents; and Abraham (Maclain Dassati), is the lone Jewish guy who may possibly have been chosen for the group by the Lord Himself.
Like all good boy groups, the Boyz have rhythm and can really lay down the dance moves. There’s very little dialogue in the show, and the high-energy rockers provide the thrust for the dance numbers while the lyrics contain much of the shows satire. Choreography is by Tyrick Wiltez Jones while Danny Bevins serves as dance captain. The four piece band is directed by Matthew Croft
Having seen “Altar Boyz” before done with a less-than-stylish set and with a band tucked aside in a corner of the stage, it was easy to come away with a ho-hum attitude towards the show. Like last year’s production of “Forever Plaid”, Meadow Brook has done an excellent job showcasing the abilities of its very talented cast. While giving the Boyz adequate room to do their thing center stage, Brian Kessler’s set features flanking chrome towers, a faux stained-glass back drop, and seating for the band high enough to be seen and appreciated throughout the performance.
“Altar Boyz” is a fun show that spoofs but never offends. Meadow Brook’s production is flashy and entertaining and one can only hope that the night you see the show, the audience does as well on the DX-12 as it did on opening night. The cast is a director’s dream, scoring high marks on singing, dancing, and acting. Ben Garrett deserves a special shout out because his character is the more flamboyant, he’s “on” every moment he’s on stage, and because he’s just plain fun to watch.
“Altar Boyz” is directed by Travis W. Walter. Costume design is by Corey Collins. Sound is by Mike Duncan with lighting by Reid G. Johnson. As a special treat, the imposing voice of Mort Crim can be heard over the loudspeaker intoning the voice of G.O.D.
“Altar Boyz” clocks in at 90 minutes without intermission. The show runs through March 5th and tickets are available by calling the Meadow Brook box office at 1.248.377.3300 or going online at www.ticketmaster.com. Meadow Brook Theatre is located on the campus of Oakland University in the city of Rochester.