Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Praise the Stage - Altar Boyz - Musical Review

Altar Boyz - Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts Studio Theatre - Toronto, ON - **** (out of 5 stars)
Music and Lyrics by Gary Adler & Michael Patrick Walker, Book by Kevin Del Aguila, Directed and Choreographed by Tim French
Runs until Oct. 11 2009

The Altar Boyz have finally descended into Toronto from the heavens of it's 4+ years run Off-Broadway via a new professional Toronto theatre company, Angelwalk Theatre. And thank the lords, it's GOOD.

I mean, the musical itself (which I've seen in NY twice already), a hilarious spoof about a fictitious Christian Boyband on their last stop of their "Raise the Praise" tour that manages to satirize the boyband phenomenon and nicely puts humour to religion without ever skewering faith, is so winning and likable that it's hard to mess up such a solid show. The songs are grade A pop ditties that sound straight out of Backstreet Boys with lyrics that satirizes the cheesiness of it all. The jokes and one liners are funny, sometimes biting, but never mean spirited. And with 5 characters, the book nicely distinguishes each boy with their own personalities and storylines.

The Toronto production is finely directed by Tim French who milks even more jokes out of the script than the New York production (directed by Canadian Stafford Arima) (except the "Stand Up, Sit Down, Kneel" part which got more hilarious visuals in the original production) and French's choreography nicely spoofs the grooves of 90's boybands.

The cast is uniformly excellent though as The Star's Richard Ouzounian did, I don't want to single out anybody, but I may be in love with Stephen Roberts as Abraham (the Jewish Boyz! above) who not only looks a little like new Broadway-star-in-the-making Aaron Tveit (Gossip Girl, Next to Normal, Saved, Catch Me If You Can), but possesses the same leading star quality. My only surprise was that he wasn't cast as lead Boyz Matthew.

Luckily, Ken Chamberland (above, second from left) does a hilarious job with Matthew and milks the humour out of his songs more than I've ever seen. Eric Morin (and his abs, above left) does a great job with Luke, the b-boy of the group.

But it's Aidan deSalaiz (above, second from right) who does a wonderously hilarious job with Juan, milking every roll of his R's into a funny bit, and his previous Stratford experience really adds a 3-dimensional quality to his cartoony role and humanizes Juan's big song "La Vida Eternal". deSalaiz adds an emotional depth to the jokey song in a way I haven't seen yet, and turned one of my least favorite songs into one of my favorite scenes.

Then there's Jeigh Madjus (above centre) as Mark, the ... more... "flaming" one. Madius is adorably hysterical and his voice is tremendous and only matched by his comedic timing. Madjus may be little in stature but definitely a scene stealer on stage and even when his Mark wasn't in the spotlight, there was a definite glow around him and he kept in character (a very energetic character) even when he was out of the spotlight.

There were some technical glitches at the preview performance but the Studio Space at the Toronto Centre for the Arts (in the same complex where the other boys, Jersey Boys, is playing) is a nice perfect size for the show, though as Ouzounian points out, a move downtown AND an extension would always be welcome.

On a random side note. Is it weird that I now have a crush on Stephen Roberts, not to be confused with my crushworthy ballet dancer Robert Stephens from the National Ballet of Canada?

Photos by Ted Belton
Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

1 comment:

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