Save your soul with the Altar Boyz

by Laura Melvin

The Arts Club’s Granville Island stage is bringing a little religion to the masses. Altar Boyz, directed by Bill Millerd, the Artistic Director of the Arts Club, is a musical comedy of entertaining pop music with an undertone of salvation. Who’s going to save your soul? Apparently, the Altar Boyz!

Three Catholic altar boys, a Jewish kid and a Mexican orphan band together to spread the gospel through pop music and choreographed dance moves and offer to save the audiences souls by the end of the show through their catchy tunes. This spoof on Christian-rock boy-bands pulls the best music and dance styles of mainstreamers like Backstreet Boys and ‘Nsync and mixes them with good old Sunday school morals.

Having grown up in the post-New Kids on the Block era of the Backstreet Boys and ‘Nsync, I was fully prepared for all the boy-bandy goodness I could handle, and I was not disappointed! Every member of the Altar Boyz fits the mold set by their predecessors. Like all good boy bands, there are five members: Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan (dig the apostles reference?), and Abraham. There’s the oddball altar boy, Abraham played by Geoff Stevens. Like Kris of ‘Nsync, or Kevin of Backstreet Boys, Abraham doesn’t quite seem to fit in with the others. In fact, he’s the Jewish member of a Catholic boy band!

Juan, Vincent Tong, with his Enrique Iglesias-esque accent, provides a little cultural flavour to the band, as did ‘Nsync’s Italian Joey Fatone. Luke, the token jock played by Jak Barradell, is like AJ of the Backstreet Boys, complete with an…er… “exhaustion” problem. Then there’s blond, baby-face Mark, David Hurwitz, with a special interest in space travel. No mystery there who that resembles! Finally, we have the Justin Timberlake of the Altar Boyz – Matthew played by Jeremy Crittenden. He’s the founder of Altar Boyz, the leader, and the most likely to go solo.

Religion can be a touchy subject, even when it’s paired with music and dancing. But, Altar Boyz manages to bring to light the humour in religion without being offensive. It’s almost as if there are punch lines written right into the Bible. A great line from the play: “Are Jewish people allowed in a church?” “Well I thought so. There’s one hanging on the cross over there”. Not insulting, just pointing out a fact.

The show is practically a full-blown concert, complete with a backup band lead by Musical Director and keyboardist Sasha Niechoda. The choreography, outfits, and bed-head messy hairstyles were enough to make even the pickiest preteen girls swoon, and the lyrics so funny the guys in the audience will laugh hard enough to raise the roof. If Sunday school was more like Altar Boyz, I probably would’ve stuck with it longer! Maybe that’s why my soul felt oddly lighter after the show….

Altar Boyz is playing at Arts Club’s Granville Island stage until August 1, 2009.

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