‘Altar Boyz’ delivers the laughs

Leslie Silverman

Lacking in any real story line or character development, it would seem that “Altar Boyz” would fall flat as a musical comedy. However, the brilliant blend of mockery of religion and boy bands, well choreographed numbers and superb delivery by the actors is a sheer delight, with laughs from beginning to end.
The premise of the musical is that the audience is at the last show of the Altar Boyz “Raise the Praise” tour and that the band is trying to save souls. The production’s consistent involvement of the audience, from confessing sins prior to the performance or cast members running into the audience or drawing one lucky theater-goer on stage, leaves one as excited as if NSYNC or the Backstreet Boys were on stage
Each Altar Boy plays a unique role in winning audiences over. The actors gel well together, an essential component to the success of this production. Luke, the “gangsta” who may have street smarts, but lacks any intelligence to speak of, is played brilliantly by Jack Warring. Warring breakdances, beat boxes and pounds his chest while delivering “peace out” to his peeps. Warring never strays from his character. While Luke is the comic relief character in the play, it is Warring’s ability to keep the “duh” look on his face throughout the performance that makes him a relatable persona.
Matthew, the leader of the band, is charming. Alex Rudd’s vocal range is superb, as is his ability to woo members of the audience. A playful gay subtext permeates the show between Matthew and Mark, played by Kit Asfeldt. Asfeldt delivers his lines flawlessly. His whimsical mannerisms and body movement abound in the “Epiphanny” song.
Perhaps the show’s most compelling singer is Alex Anthony Garcia. The harmonies provided by the other men on stage during Garcia’s rendition of “La Vida Eternal” blend so well to uplift the entire performance into Latin rock star status.
Abraham is a sleeper character who breaks out at the end of the play. His character is pivotal in explaining the essence of the popularity of the boy band phenomenon. “There’s no star as bright as its constellation,” he reminds his bandmates. He is also the only Jew in the band and, while his bandmates question whether he is even allowed in church, he jokes, “I just saw one over the altar.”
The lyrical genius of this production makes it a must- see. Songs like “Church Rulez” with its instructions to “Stand up, kneel, sit down and watch the organist play, and wash your sins away, and hear what the priest has to say,” don’t aim to make light of Catholicism, but rather give an honest portrayal of what takes place in the church setting, albeit in an enticing comedic way.
“Altar Boyz” runs through Aug. 15 at the Black Hills Playhouse. It is the final show of the 2021 summer season.

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