Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Sparkling Altar Boyz by Music Circus

l to r: Ryan Nearhoff, Andres Quintero, Devin DeSantis, Jamison Scott, Tim Dolan.
For this review I must confess that I was predisposed against the show when I arrived at the Music Circus production of “Altar Boyz.” Maybe my attitude had something to do with “Boys” spelled with a “z.” I was unconcerned about sacrilege; what I expected was an evening of mere musical silliness. But by the end of the introductory number, “We Are the Altar Boyz,” I was caught up in total delight.

Aimed at boy bands, and specifically Christian boy bands, the satire is both affectionate and penetrating. And the five performers are virtually flawless in acting, singing, dancing—and maintaining their energy through a full-length production without intermission. Four of the characters are modern representatives of the Gospel writers: Matthew (Devin DeSantis), Mark (Jamison Scott), Luke (Ryan Nearhoff), and Juan (Andres Quinero). Also included is the voice of “G.O.D.” (Shadoe Stevens).

Socking home the ecumenicism is Tim Dolan in yarmulke as Abraham, the Jewish representative. (He’s also the dance captain). All that’s lacking is a well-endowed Virgin Mary. But the show comes close, with a lovely woman from the “audience” and the guys affirming to her their devotion to sexual restraint and preserving their virginity.

With its 12 original musical numbers, involving song, dance, and some startling acrobatics, all perfectly timed, the story adds a special immediacy. Discarding the usual imaginary wall between audience and performers, the story claims to be happening in the here and now, with frequent references to Sacramento, plus Luke wearing a “Kings” shirt.

In fact the entire audience becomes part of the show. The characters’ purpose is to save the endangered souls among them. Adapting the biblical to the modern, the “boyz” make use of a high-tech device called a “Soul Sensor DX-12,” which drops from the ceiling and projects the number of endangered souls in the theater. We can’t help keeping track as the numbers bounce up and down during the course of the show.

Though lacking a clear plot movement, the show holds us, like Cleopatra’s “infinite variety.” There’s something new in each episode, like a musical number with hand puppets and a late sudden turn to the serious and inspiring, as when Mark, striding down the aisle, powerfully sings “I am a Catholic.”

The resolution of the unspoken question—what holds this diverse group together—comes as a surprise in the finale: “I believe.”

Directed by Stafford Arima, “Altar Boyz” is choreographed by Christopher Gatelli and backed by a five-piece band: Tom Griep (keyboard), Brian Kendrick (drums/percussion), Tom Phillips (guitar), and Jason Loffredo (conductor/keyboard).

This new off-Broadway hit will run through July 19 at the Wells Fargo Pavilion. Performances are Wednesday at 8 p.m., Thursday at 2 and 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets, $41 to $53, are currently on sale at the Wells Fargo Pavilion at 1419 H Street, Sacramento, or by phone at (916) 557-1999. Tickets are also available online at or by calling (800) 225-2277. For groups of 12 or more call (916) 557-1198. For more information about the show and the season, please visit

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