view counter

Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre’s Altar Boyz

Irresistible ’90s’ choreography with five singing and dancing guys

Altar Boyz is the This is Spinal Tap of boy bands. As that classic 1980s’ movie mocked heavy metal bands, so does Altar Boyz mock the marketed maleness of the Backstreet Boys, New Kids on the Block and Menudo. But it does so gently, with an affection that softens the satire and allows the audience to appreciate the characters and their story.
    Altar Boyz is a 1990s’ boy band stuck in present times with five-part harmonies, laughable lyrics and the pop-Christian music that also gained popularity around that decade. Sprinkle in choreography that perfectly captures the ’90s’ synchronization of NSYNC, and — praise God! — you get a night of music, dance and laughs.
    In the midst of a very successful life in church basements and community theaters across the country after running off-Broadway for more than 2,000 performances between 2005 and 2010, Altar Boyz is an energetic concert by the fictitious band from Ohio, landing in Annapolis for its final performance of a big tour.
    Sure, it’s a satire of pop-religious music, and of boy bands, and of those longing lyrics, but it’s also energetic and sincere. Nowhere is that sincerity more evident than in the hard-working quintet of actors brought to us by director Mark Briner. The humor is immediate in the biblical references as we are introduced to Matthew (Jamie Jacobs), Mark (Angel Duque), Luke (Ben Heemstra), Juan (Michael Parks) and Abraham (Zach Husak), the lone Jew among Catholics.
    The concert plays in real time as the last stop of the Raise the Praise Tour, and the cast works real hard, along with an onstage quartet that rolls right along with the rock. Jacobs is the perfect leading man, tall and in control, connecting with the audience as easily as he slides into harmonies with his cast mates. His Girl, You Make Me Wanna Wait, sung to an audience member brought on stage, is so sincere it’s laugh-out-loud funny.
    Duque is a jittery waterbug who flits across the stage and can’t quite hide his affection for Matthew; when he sings Epiphany, it’s about his coming out — not as gay but as Catholic. Heemstra, the spitting image of a young Jeff Daniels, is as Dumb and Dumber as they come, and full of soul. Parks and Husak hilariously provide the Latino and Jewish prospectives.
    As they work to save souls using the colorful Soul Sensor DX-12, which keeps count of the unsaved in the audience, we get song titles like The Calling that turn into lyrics like “Jesus called me on my cell phone.” Perfect.
    Quibbles? Sure: The occasional high note doesn’t quite hit its mark, and too often the lighting leaves a downstage face in the dark. But the overall effect is energetic fun.
    It’s a silly but smooth ride thanks to the infectious charm and hard work of these five guys, whose singing and dancing so vividly animate that irresistible ’90s’ choreography.

Music director Ken Kimble, keyboardist Randy Neilson, guitarist Kevin Hawk, drumer Billy Georg. Choreographer Becca Vourvoulas, lighting designer John Purnell, sound designer Chris Timko, costume designer Mark Briner.

Th-Su 8:30pm thru July 21, plus July 18, Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre, $25, rsvp: