Joseph Sevillo, Jeremy Walmsley, Michael Lyons, Marc Devigne & Simon Miron in "Altar Boyz" (Bruce Monk)
Altar Boyz never digs too deep, and so is unlikely to offend any except the most devoutly humourless - but it does take a few glancing swipes at manufactured pop bands, commercialism in music, and even the suggestion that the "pure and decent" Altar Boyz, so intent on saving our souls, might have a little "soul work" of their own to do.
—Joff Schmidt, CBC Theatre Reviewer
I've seen a lot of shows at the Winnipeg Fringe Fest I thought were easily good enough to hold up as part of a season at one of our city's professional theatres.
Altar Boyz was certainly one of those shows when I saw it during its sold-out run at 2009 Fringe. And here, in a co-production between Winnipeg Studio Theatre and Prairie Theatre Exchange, it makes a successful transition from Fringe to professional production.
The 2004 Off-Broadway musical (with a book by Kevin Del Aguila and music/lyrics by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker) is an infectiously fun, if not terribly deep, outing. It focusses on the Altar Boyz, a boy band who seem churned out of whatever factory produced the Backstreet Boys or 'N Sync - except that the devoutly religious Altar Boyz are bustin' out their moves for a higher power.
The premise is that the Boyz are at the end of their "Raise the Praise" tour, and have come to our humble city to help us all shed our impure thoughts through catchy beats and high-energy dance numbers. They even have a nifty device - the Soul Sensor DX-12 ("from the good folks at Sony Electronics"), which can detect how many of us sinners in the audience still haven't let go of our spiritual baggage. The loose plot of the show focuses on the Boyz trying to get that number down to zero.
Plot's not really the point here, though - rather, we're meant to enjoy the music and cheerfully clueless antics of the Boyz, all of whom fit neatly into a boy band "type." There's the sensitive leader, Matthew (Jeremy Walmsley); the even-more sensitive Mark (Joseph Sevillo), who'd like to be a little "closer" (nudge nudge wink wink) with Matthew; bad boy Luke (Michael Lyons); Juan, the Latin heartthrob (Marc Devigne); and the "gefilte fish out of water" in the Catholic group, Abraham (Simon Miron).