Monday, 11 August 2008

Altar Boyz, Aug 11, 2008 ****

Altar Boyz
Conceived by Ken Davenport & Marc Kessler
Music & lyrics by Garry Adler & Patrick Walker
Athenaeum Theatre, Tues to Sun Aug 11 to Sept 13, 2008
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Aug 11, 2008

Cross the Hill Song Church with Human Nature and you have Altar Boyz, a musical parody of a Christian boy band. The five Boyz are Matthew, Mark, Luke and Juan (the Mexican). Oh, and then there’s Abraham, the Jewish boy and master lyricist who happened along on the day the others decided to sing for God.

The Boyz perform the final show of its Raise the Praise tour and their task is to sing saccharine sweet songs to save tortured, sinful souls. Every night, the Sony Soul Sensor records on a digital screen the number of sinners in the audience. As the night progresses the number decreases and the Boyz celebrate their success.

Vivacious, versatile and charming singer-dancers, combined with peppy choreography and cleverly written, up-tempo tunes, make this an energetic, effervescent show.

Cameron MacDonald is Matthew, the clean-cut, charismatic leader of the Altar Boyz. His adoring sidekick, Mark, is played by Dion Bilios who prances hilariously as this closeted but oh-so-obviously gay boy. Tim Maddren (OK) is Luke, the thug who drives the truck and was saved after doing rehab for “exhaustion” – and alcohol.

Jeremy Brennan plays Juan, the Mexican Lothario whose latin song, la Vida Eternal, is a cunning parody of Ricky Martin. Andrew Koblar is Abraham, the Jewish boy who begins as the outsider but turns out to be the most loyal to this Christian band.

Garry Adler and Patrick Walker’s songs replicate the sugary style of boy band pop music and the lyrics are gently satirical. They turn the raunchy pop lyrics on their heads. “Something about you makes me want to wait,” sings Matthew to his girlfriend, parodying the popularity of sexual abstinence amongst young Christians.

The on-stage band under musical director, Robert Gavin, is accomplished and gives the gossamer-light lyrics some weight. Kate Gaul directs the show at a cracking pace and keeps the laughs coming.

The characters that are clearly written for American culture so some dialogue does not work in an Australian accent. The comic sketches are cheesy but they work because the intention of the show is to be ultra-daggy.
Altar Boyz is really entertaining and the music is toe-tappin’. It is unlikely that devout Christians will be offended – but you never know. Good satire takes no prisoners.

By Kate Herbert

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