Altar Boyz may not be a religious experience, but it’s good for laughs, especially if you’re one of those now-grown Catholic kids who was a.) terrorized by nuns, b.) terrified by the confessional booth, c.) raised on “Church Rulez,” as one of the show’s songs goes, or d.) all of the above.
But you need not be of Catholic upbringing to enjoy this good-natured spoof by Kevin Del Aguila (book) and Gary Adler and Michael Patrick (music and lyrics) that ran for 10 years Off-Broadway and is running through Sunday in University Heights as part of Diversionary Theatre’s “On Stage at Diversionary Cabaret” series. Produced and directed by Noah Longton, with choreography by associate producer Michael Mizerany (associate artistic director for Malashock Dance), Altar Boyz is not a Diversionary production – its next show is Pippin, opening in September. The Diversionary space works well enough for the one-act musical send-up, which presents us with five members of a Christian boy band – the Altar Boyz – performing the last gig on their “Raise the Praise” tour. The boyz – Matthew (Hanz Enyeart), Mark (Hunter Schwarz), Luke (Shaun Tuazon), Juan (Patrick Mayuyu) and Abraham (Nicholas Sloan) – sing, dance and trade quips of the innuendo and benignly irreverent kind, culminating in a feel-good ending that wasn’t really needed in a story without anything particularly at stake. We’re told, courtesy of a tote-board “Soul Sensor,” that our spiritual destinies are at stake, but that’s all in fun.
The majority of the 12 songs are a crack-up, especially the double-entendre-laden “Rhythm In Me” and the aforementioned “Church Rulez,” which plays off the sitting-kneeling-standing calisthenics of participation at Mass. The real-life boys sound fine singing together, though none (well, maybe Sloan, as the Jewish member of the group, Abe) has a memorable voice on his own. A “serious” plot turn near the end seems forced, too, for a show as insouciant as this.
Throughout this cabaret production, there’s a bar open for business right in the theater. If you don’t mind scurrying in front of the stage on your way there and back, you can relive your abstinent youth with drink in hand.
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat