By Rob Cline
CEDAR RAPIDS -- Let’s not beat around the burning bush: "Altar Boyz" rocks the house.
On Friday, a large opening night crowd at Theatre Cedar Rapids Lindale fell in love with Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan and Abraham — five guys determined to save souls through the power of pop music. Directed by Casey Prince, with musical direction by Damon Cole and choreography by Lovar Davis Kidd, the production was tremendous fun from beginning to end.
Set up as the final concert on the Altar Boyz tour, the plot of the show is simple: the members of the boy band set out to salve the souls of audience members only to find they need some succor of their own.
While I had expected a biting satire of Christianity in general and contemporary Christian music in particular, the show manages to poke gentle fun at piousness without an angry edge. The members of the Altar Boyz may not live up to their carefully maintained image, but they are nevertheless committed to their collective mission.
The key to making the show work is to create a believable boy band. Zach Parker, Alex Schulte, Royce Hufford, Richie Akers and Ryan Foizey are a convincing crew. Each is a strong singer and their blend is smooth. Kidd’s choreography is perfect for the show and all five guys are good movers. Equally importantly, they have the boy band look (thanks to costume designer Joni Sackett) and attitude down pat.
Parker (Matthew) is the group’s leader and has a sweet voice and winning smile he wields seductively in the abstinence ballad “Something About You.” Schulte (Mark) is hilarious throughout the show as his character seeks to come to grips with an inconvenient romantic truth. He raised the roof on the show’s most satiric number, “Epiphany.”
Hufford (Luke) raps and struts as the band’s putative bad boy, bringing the first act to a rousing close with “Body, Mind & Soul!” Akers (Juan) is fiery and funny as the band’s Latin lover whose prayers are answered in a way he might not have preferred.
The boys are ably supported by Cole’s onstage and keyboard heavy band (note to band — we can see you; leave your shoes on) and by D. Allan Boettger, the first of three performers who will intone the “Voice of G.O.D.” Bret Gothe’s set is appropriately simple but pleasing while Derek Easton’s lighting design does much to enhance the “concert.”
"Altar Boyz" continues through Sept. 27 at TCR Lindale, 4444 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids. For tickets and times, call (319) 366-8591 or go to http://www.theatrecr.org/index.php
To see the Boyz' behind the scenes mockumentary, go to http://www.facebook.com/v/1241107630356