Chords of deafening synthesizer music accent the blinding shafts of light that assault the audience, while an ethereal baritone voice urges us to put our hands together for the arrival of The Boyz. When they finally appear through a cloud of smoke, supplied by a gum-chewing stagehand using a handheld fogger, you know you're in for evening of tongue-in-cheek humor.
Simultaneously parodying boy bands and youthful Christian rock, "Altar Boyz" hits all the right notes. The slim plot informs us that this is the last leg of the group's successful road tour and, with the aid of its new Sony Soul Scanner, the group wants to end it by saving every soul in the audience.
Throughout the 90-minute revue we get to know the five Boyz pretty well. Matthew (Equity Guest Artist Mike Arthur) is the group's spokesman. The actor nicely straddles the fine line between authoritative leader and innocent crusader. Robert Deason resists playing Mark as the stereotypical gay comic character. Instead he shows us a creative individual quietly pining away with unrequited love. Ruggedly handsome Courtney Crouse is the streetwise tough boy of the group, Luke. Mr. Crouse brings a natural quality to the role, busting all the right moves during his dance breaks and earning some well-deserved special applause.
Edward Fraim's Juan is all droopy-eyed soul and passion. His Julio Iglesias-like swagger, his swarthy Latin looks and the way he cradles a song with his voice makes the ladies in the audience sit up and take notice. But it is Frank Joseph Paul's Abraham, the Jewish member of the group, who stands out most in this ensemble. Not only does this actor display the most pleasing and powerful vocals, but he also easily commands the stage with his presence.
Except for a few botched lighting cues and microphone difficulties, this is a polished production. Gil Mata's boy-band choreography remains true to the style while still satirizing it, and John Horan's lighting design captures all the excitement of a real rock concert. This entertaining evening is worth the trek out to the far western suburbs.