Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Altar Boyz book by Kevin Del Aguila, Music and Lyrics by Gary Adler & Michael Patrick Walker, Conceived by Marc Kessler & Kevin Davenport, Orchestrations by Doug Katsaros & Lynne Shankel

L - R Michael Michael Marchak, Jason Chacon, Tyler Vess, Craig McEldowney, Photo: James Esposito 

By Joe Straw

Altar Boyz book by Kevin Del Aguila, music and lyrics by Gary Adler & Michael Patrick Walker, conceived by Marc Kessler & Kevin Davenport and directed by Kristin Towers-Rowles is now playing at the Chromolume Theatre through May 11, 2014.

The Chromolume Theatre at the Attic sounds a bit confusing. The Attic is basically the same space at 5429 Washington Boulevard. And to reacquaint you, this space is a very small black box venue, approximately 69 seats.

You can compare The Altar Boyz to ‘N Sync, or an earlier version The Backstreet Boys and/or New Kids on the Block, but The Altar Boyz are fine standing on their own merits.  

So let’s not make that comparison. Because where Jesus is concerned, The Altar Boyz are the real deal, second to none in the life of Christian Boy Bands.   Word is that a higher up has got a special place for them when things come to a harmonious end and they enter the pearly gates.  And it’s right next to the van.  

Altar Boyz is a crowd pleaser and, on this particular night, the Christians were having the time of their lives, as are the others who ventured out to see this nocturnal boy band fest.  Anyone who enjoys a little religion, with his or her entertainment, will enjoy the boyz in this show.  

Only there’s a slight problem, these are not really boyz, they are men, well into their, well let’s not go there.  Suffice it to say, they are not teenagers, and life has added a few extra pounds to their teenage frames.  But what they lack in youth, they’ve gained in experience and the ability to control an audience in support their church. 

I didn’t quite get where the proceeds of their performance were going. To God? Or the van?

Truth be told, the boyz are down on their luck. Once they commanded spaces up to the hundreds and now its come to this, a small theatre on Washington.  But that’s a challenge they’ve come to accept, because when the night is done, they will blow the Christian roof off of this venue.

Kevin Del Aguila’s book tells us the Boyz have to convert their audience.  Because, let’s be frank, this group (yours included) ain’t feeling it, so says the Boyz’ soul sensor monitor which says that 69 people just ain’t gettin’ God’s groove.

So, if it’s the telling of their story to make you come over, then that’s what they got to do.

Be that as it may, Matthew (Craig McEldowney), Mark (Michael Marchak), Luke (Jason Chacon), and Juan (Joey Acuna), put on a hell of a show (maybe a bad choice of words given the theme) to convince their audience to believe.  And by the end, they make it their objective to convert all, even if it takes the last ounce of beaded sweat pouring off their bodies and souls, to prove their point.  

The Bible has a lot of stories and so do our boyz. Matthew is a virgin, and will remain a virgin until he is married.  Mark is gay and really wants Matthew to give up this virgin thing, with him. Luke has changed his life around but still carries his street thug mentality under his tight cap.    And Juan is an orphan who wants to find his mother and father.  Abraham (Tyler Vess) is a Jew just to add one more to their religious base.

Kristin Towers-Rowles, the director, does a tremendous job defining the objectives of the characters so the audience gets a clear understanding of this musical endeavor.  The Music and Lyrics by Gary Adler & Michael Patrick Walker are very clever with a slight bash on religious thought and fanaticism. There was a moment when we seemed to head into Billy Graham territory but suddenly the show comes back to good clean religious fun as it was meant to be. The choreography by Samantha Marie is fun and keeps thing moving in a delightful direction. All in all, this is a very good outing.

The Boyz lean in the direction that says that even though were a Christian Boy Band, we’re going to give it everything we got, until God is got.

And while we are on the subject of making life changes, I have some thoughts.

This is a small venue and the actors/singers had mics and even then the words did not overcome the volume of the four-piece band. Musical director Richard Berent hasn’t found the correct satisfying levels.  Not a big problem – fixed with only a minor adjustment. The other members of the band are Joe Lawrence, synthesizer, John Harvey on drums and George “Drew” DeRieux on guitar.

L - R Jason Chacon, Michael Marchak, Craig McEldowney, Tyler Vess, Joey Acuna Photo: James Esposito 

Craig McEldowney plays Matthew, a man who won’t give “it” up until he is married. He appears to be the leader of the group and has a very nice solo number with a woman from the audience that was a big Christian crowd pleaser.

Michael Marchak is Mark, the very openly gay character on stage who would love to privately pray with a member of the band.  Marchak fits the boy-band mold with a wide-eyed expression and the ability to sing and dance with finesse and grace.   

Jason Chacon is Luke, the tough guy in the group who wants you to believe even if he has to force the religion down your throat.  It’s something that the other members of the band don’t like, given their peaceful devotion. Chacon has a very nice speaking voice but loses a little when he sings.  He has a lot of very funny moments.

Joey Acuna plays Juan, a man who was left on someone’s doorsteps, when he was a tiny baby. His one dream is to find his parents, that they will come to one of his performances, and they will lovingly reunite.  So, his dream is to find his parents but when the plan doesn’t work out, his dream becomes a physical nightmare that he must overcome. He does this in grand style and wonderfully executed. 

Tyler Vess is Abraham and keeps the ball rolling, does a nice job, but we never really get a sense of his character, aside from the menorah here, and the Star of David there. Still he has a good look and a nice voice.

Other members of the cast who did not perform on this night were Holland Noel, Kyle Shepard, Justin P. James, Charles Martinez, and Charles Martinez.

Dance Music and Additional Arrangements by Lynne Shankel.

Other members of this crew are as follows:

Scenic Design - Daniel Ingram
Lighting Design – Craig Batory
Costume Design – Wes Jenkins
Sound Design – James Esposito
Stage Manager – Lauren J. Peters
Assistant Stage Manager – Alysha Bermudez
Press Representative – Ken Werther Publicity

Run! Run!  Don't think, take a Unitarian Universalist and let them do the religious thinking for the both of you. 



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