Genesius Theatre's 'Altar Boyz' is an uplifting and hilarious 90 minutes of musical comedy
“Altar Boyz” was created by Marc Kessler and Ken Davenport with a book by Kevin Del Aguila and music and lyrics by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker. The show premiered in 2004 at the New York Musical Theatre Festival and opened at off-Broadway’s New World Stages in 2005. It won the 2005 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical and was nominated for seven Drama Desk Awards, including Best Music, Best Lyrics, Best Book and Best Musical and 2007 Broadway.com Audience Favorite Award.
The “Boyz” are Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan and Abraham (He’s Jewish as he quickly points out.) The Christian boy band is giving its last performance on its “Raise the Praise” tour to “rock the masses of all denominations by spreading the good news and soothing the troubled souls of Greater Reading through the glory of sweet pop music.”
Director Zach Frantz, who also plays Mark, cast his net and found the perfect group of guys to join him on this delightful, 90-minute journey. They can sing, they can dance and they are hilarious!
Each of the “boyz” has a distinct personality and gets a turn to shine in the spotlight.
Particularly unforgettable is Brandon Kegerize as Luke, the bad boy of the group. Kegerize has got the moves and has perfect timing for both dancing and comedy. The audience really gets drawn into the “Rhythm In Me,” a hand-clapping, feel-good number.
Not to be outdone, Caleb Seip as Juan (The Latin Lover,) gets everyone groovin’ with “La Vida Eternal,” another number that sticks with you after you leave the theater. Juan’s over-the-top personality is a scene-stealer and Seip makes the most of it.
He’s not the only one to deliver this memorable song, however. When Juan is unable to continue singing, Abraham, played by Nick Moore, steps in and finishes it with a flourish. Moore’s character is subdued compared to the flamboyant Juan, but Moore picks up the vocals with ease and surprises the audience.
Ben Long plays Matthew the charismatic leader of the group. He delivers the classic boy-band ballad, with sincerity even when he sings lines like “Girl You Make me Want to Wait.” How he keeps a straight face is beyond me.
Last, but certainly not least, is Frantz as Mark, the sensitive one. Frantz has been tireless behind the scenes at Genesius for years, but just ventured into the spotlight in the past year — to the delight of local audiences. A talented comedian, he also gets to show off his vocal skills in a ballad, “Epiphany,”
Together, like their boy-band counterparts, they produce some really nice harmonies.
The lyrics are contemporary with a touch of humor — “Jesus called me on my cellphone/No roaming charges were incurred/He told me that I should go out in the world/And spread his glorious word.” The songs also have an underlying positive message, such as “Everybody Fits.”
The show also pokes fun at our obsession with technology with the “Sony Soul Sensor DX-12,” a computer gadget that gauges the spiritual well-being of the audience. The Altar Boyz’ goal is to get the number of troubled souls down to zero by the end of the show.
Choreographer Amanda Leam Guitstewite came up with some high-energy, dynamic moves for the guys — and they nail it. Musical director for the show is Kevin Cooper.
“Altar Boyz” is one of those shows that many people have never heard of — myself included — but I’m really glad I got “the word.” This is a show that will leave you feeling good and humming as you head home — and that’s the Gospel truth.
“Altar Boyz” runs Wednesday through Sunday at Genesius Theatre, 10th & Walnut streets in Reading.
Remaining shows are 7:30 Wednesday and Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. To purchase tickets with all major credit cards, visit the website at www.genesiustheatre.org or call 610-373-9500. Tickets range in price from $15 to $25 and credit card fees apply. Tickets are also available at the door. For more information, contact the theater at 610-371-8151. Genesius Theatre is handicap accessible and there is free parking beside of the theater (limited spaces available). This production is rated PG — (light, but complimentary spoofing of organized religion).