Friday, 10 October 2014

Theatre review: Altar Boyz

After a successful off-Broadway run, Kevin Del Aguila, Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker's boyband spoof Altar Boyz finally debuts in the UK, in a production running for just two weeks in Greenwich. Maybe this low-key run is just testing the waters as there's nothing half-baked about Steven Dexter's production, and the show's remarkably silly sense of humour seems to me a good fit for this side of the pond. Altar Boyz takes the form of a concert, the final night of a tour by the titular Catholic boyband. Matthew (Liam Doyle) is the leader, Mark (Jonny Fines) the closeted pretty-boy, Luke (Jamie-Ray Hartshorne) the "streetwise" one, Juan (Faisal Khodabukus) the latin lover-boy with a tragic backstory, and Abraham (Alex Jordan-Mills) is Jewish, but is in the band because he happened to be in the room when God (the recorded voice of Luke Kempner, doing an impression of The X Factor's Peter Dickson,) gave them their calling.

That calling is to save souls through pop music, and conveniently they have an app for that - a "soul sensor" above the stage counts down how many people in the room still need to have their sins purged by their music.


The spoof both of boybands and religious music is spot-on, perhaps a bit too much so where the songs are concerned, all a bit too bland to be truly memorable. But the attempts to make religion cool for ver kids are cringe-inducingly accurate ("Jesus liked me on my Facebook") and there's a succession of po-faced double-entendres to keep the most childish senses of humour (hello!) happy (the "Confession Sessions" moment is a highlight - "You coveted your neighbour's ass? Give him a carrot for his ass!")


Khodabukus and Fines in particular give very detailed comic performances you can barely look away from for fear of missing something: Juan has a seemingly endless supply of cheesy facial expressions and flirts with half the audience; while Mark's camp dance moves and obvious attraction to Matthew come to a head when he takes an aggressive dislike to an audience member who gets serenaded by his bandmate.


Hartshorne's unpredictable Luke sometimes threatens to steal the show as well (as do his abs) although the real star may be Ewan Jones' energetic, well-observed and sometimes absurd choreography. There's nothing sophisticated about Altar Boyz but there doesn't need to be; it's a good-looking cast throwing a lot of energy into something very silly, and there's nothing wrong with that combination. Hopefully Dexter's production and this well-matched cast will find a home for a longer run, but if they don't you should try to catch them while you can.


Altar Boyz by Kevin Del Aguila, Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker, originally conceived by Marc Kessler & Ken Davenport, is booking until the 18th of October at Greenwich Theatre.

Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes straight through.

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