Review: Altar Boyz

Hallelujah! The Altar Boyz are in town saving souls and serving up a fun (and funny) summertime treat at the Arts Club Granville Island Stage.  And while Jordan, Jonathan, Joey, Donnie and Danny may have launched a reunion tour, they have some tough competition with Matthew (Jeremy Crittenden), Mark (David Hurwitz), Luke (Jak Barradell), Juan (Vincent Tong) and Abraham (Geoff Stevens).

Seems the last performance of The Altar Boyz North American tour just happens to end in Vancouver and as the tour comes to a close they have given themselves the rather lofty goal of saving the souls of the entire audience before the night is done.  Along the way, we learn how the group was formed and like most boy bands that outgrew each other in the late 90s, the valuable lesson learned as a group by the end of the show will probably swear you off sugar for the rest of your life.

Poking fun at a variety of religious themes, mostly centered around Catholicism and Judaism, the boyz perform tongue-firmly-in-cheek in the traditional boy band style complete with the required synchronized dance routines, five part harmonies and of course just enough boyz-to-men angst (sorry, I couldn’t resist…).

The five men (boyz) here are nothing short of extraordinary but reading their pedigrees it isn’t surprising that they all are true triple threats.  These boyz have it all – great voices that work well together and separately, the ability to dance in sync (again, sorry) and even with the rather limited storyline, the acting abilities necessary to move the narrative to its conclusion.

Crittenden as Matthew, the defacto group leader, plays the waiting-until-I-marry card to the hilt in one of the shows more memorable numbers involving audience participation and a final line that had the audience roaring.

David Hurwitz’ Mark is simply outrageous and a definite favourite for all of us recovering gay Catholics; his “Epiphany” had us desperately trying to figure out where it would ultimately lead as we hung onto everyone of the very clever words.

Vincent Tong returns to the Arts Club stage as Juan, having previously appeared as Lefou in Beauty and the Beast, and once again proves that Vancouver’s diversity can be represented on the stage with great results.

Barradell as the slightly dim street smart Luke, recently returned from rehab due to “exhaustion”, is spot-on and one of the show’s strongest dancers.  Oh, and did we mention a body to die for?

Finally, Geoff Stevens as the ironic Abraham, the only Jew amongst the Christians, turns out to be the one character to be truly divinely inspired and ultimately the one to keep the band together.

Backing up the boyz is the five piece band consisting of drums, keyboards and guitar led by Musical Director Sasha Niechoda.  For the most part the band is forgotten but that is only because Director Bill Millerd ensures that what is happening with the boyz keeps our attention and the band is of such a high calibre that they know they are there to simply make the boyz sound good.

Sara-Jeanne Hosie’s choreography captures all of the iconic boy band moves to great effect and has obviously worked hard to highlight the strengths of the different actors including Barradell’s heavy lifting and break-dance capabilities, Tong’s gymnastic flexibility and the ensemble’s precision.

This group of talented actors and musicians have been touring various parts of British Columbia from Surrey to Nelson and despite having done the show now for a number of months the team continues to be fresh and obviously enjoying the ride.  Their (real) final performances bring The Altar Boyz to the Arts Club Granville Island Stage through August 1st.  Heaven help you if you miss it!

Visit http://www.artsclub.com for tickets and information.  And for some behind the scenes fun be sure to check outThe Altar Boyz blog at http://altarblog.artsclub.com.

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