Last night, I took in the opening performance of PTE’s Altar Boyz and let me tell you, it was a heavenly night full of toe-tapping pop songs, cute twenty-something crooners, and tongue-in-cheek bible thumping.
This wasn’t my first foray into the sweetly-satired world of Altar Boyz; PTE’s production is a remount of Winnipeg Studio Theatre’s 2009 Fringe reincarnation of the off-Broadway hit. I was one of the lucky few who got to see one of those original performances, as Altar Boyz proved to be the best-selling show of the 2009 Winnipeg Fringe Festival. Score one for the bible and boy bands.
For those unfamiliar with Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker’s off-Broadway hit, Altar Boyz tells the story of a Christian boy band that is traveling the country on its Raise The Praise tour. Fronting the Altar Boyz is Matthew (Jeremy Walmsley), the cute, sensitive heart breaker who leads the group in their pop-infused holy set. Mark (Joseph Sevillo) is the sensitive one, with silky-smooth, Mariah-esque vocal stylings and a love of a good dance solo. Luke (Michael Lyons), the rapping bad boy, has just been released from a rehabilitation centre for “exhaustion”. Juan (Marc Devigne) is the Ricky Martin inspired Latin Lover, who is searching for his long-lost parents in between Meringue steps. And finally there’s Abraham (Simon Miron), the only Jewish member, who masterminds all of the group’s lyrics, while trying to keep his own faith amongst his Christian counterparts.
Together, the Altar Boyz have landed in Winnipeg in what is the last stop in their holy tour. Their mission is to cleanse the souls of the entire PTE audience, all in 90 minutes or less. But secrets, hidden desires, and doo-rags litter their paths to righteousness. The result is a hilarious, fun, smart, and infectious pop-musical of Godly proportions.
Backing the charismatic cast is a fabulous 6-piece band, as well as an epic concert-style set conceptualized by Sean Neville, Janelle Regalbutto, and Shane Stewart. The choreography by Winnipeg veterans Sofia Constantini and Brenda Gorlick is fun, funky, and pleasingly referential. Director Kayla Gordon, whose past credits include The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Hersteria, and Spring Awakening has once again delivered the Winnipeg audience with an exciting taste of Broadway, er off-Broadway. Get your tickets fast, folks. Chances are it’ll be a hit.
Altar Boyz runs at Prairie Theatre Exchange from February 23 – March 11. Tickets are between $25-$45 and can be purchased by phone (204) 925-5269 or at pte.mb.ca . All students with valid ID can take advantage of a $10 ticket for any unsold seat 30 minutes before show time.