‘Altar Boyz’ at 1st Stage by Julia L. Exline

1st Stage presents Altar Boyz, a musical comedy with a book by Kevin Del Aguila and music and lyrics by Gary Adler. Steven Royal directs this hilarious and catchy satire about a Christian boy band who hope to redeem the souls of their audience through the sanctity that is pop music.

The cast of Altar Boyz: From left, Edward Nagel (Mark); Zack Powell (Abraham); BJ Gruber (Matthew); Jonathan Micah Walker (Juan); and Derek Tatum (Luke). Photo by Brad Kalbfeld/1st Stage.

Director Steven Royal also designed the set for this  this production — a typical concert stage, with multi-levels of steps for the actors to sing and dance on, and musicians tucked out of the way. The band (aptly named N*Saint) is comprised of Musical Director Walter McCoy (Conductor and keyboard), J.Michael d’Haviland (keyboard), Nate Wilkinson (guitar) and Jim Hofmann (electric drums). They provide live music throughout the show, alongside recorded sound by Derek V. Knoderer. Lighting Designer David A. Sexton uses bright, flashy strobe lights to accompany dance numbers, and a hazy, fog-like effect that shrouds the entire theater completes the atmosphere. Royal dresses his actors as a stereotypical boy band, complete with the expected tight pants and pleather jackets.

It’s the last show on their “Raise The Priase” tour, and The Altar Boyz grow concerned when the leader and heartthrob Matthew (BJ Gruber) uses his “soul sensor” app to seek out nearby sinners — and discovers that his audience is seething with them! Determined to save the souls of their fans, they deliver peppy song-and-dance routines, checking the soul sensor throughout the show with hopes of dwindling numbers. Choreographer Jeremy McShan uses dance moves right out of famous music videos (the rodeo-arm move made famous by N’Sync? It’s in there) as well as original moves that are incredibly enjoyable (and at times hilarious) to watch. The boys amp up the crowd with “Rhythm in Me” (“When I say Jesus, you say Christ!”) and lend a hip-hop vibe with the “The Miracle Song.”

Matthew’s band mates are stereotypical in the funniest ways; Derek Tatum plays a loveable bad boy, Luke, who has recently returned from a stint in rehab for “exhaustion.” Jonathan Walker provides Latin flare as Juan. Zack Powell stands out as Abraham, the sole Jewish member of the group, and Edward C. Nagel is fantastic as Mark, who holds a flamboyant secret…that’s not so secret. The group has a “confession session,” where they read confessions from audience members, and Matthew sings a ballad about abstinence called “Something About You,” bringing a blushing girl from the audience onstage to serenade.

Edward Nagel as Mark. Photo by Brad Kalbfeld/1st Stage.

With “sinner” numbers dwindling, things are looking good for The Altar Boyz…until Juan receives some news that tests the strength of faith (“La Vida Eternal”), and sends the numbers rocketing. Will The Altar Boyz be able to save every last member of their audience…including themselves?

Everything about this show was thoroughly enjoyable, especially the performances. The actors had great chemistry, shown in their coordinated dance moves, and perfect comedic timing. While the songs were satiric and funny, they were also incredibly catchy (as, let’s face it, most pop songs are).

Half concert, half play, and all fun, 1st Stage’s Altar Boyz is a heavenly and divine night of entertainment!

Running Time: 90 minutes, without an intermission.

The Altar Boyz are jumping for joy beginning November 23, 2012 at 1st Stage in Tysons! (L-R) Jonathan Walker (Juan), Ted Nagel (Mark), Zack Powell (Abe), BJ Gruber (Matthew), and Derek Tatum (Luke).

Altar Boyz plays from November 23, 2012 through December 30, 2012 at 1st Stage – 1524 Spring Hill Road, in McLean, VA. Purchase tickets online.


Read the ‘They’re the Altar Boyz’ series of interviews with the cast on DCMTA:
‘The’re the Altar Boyz’: Part One: Steven Royal on Directing Altar Boyz at 1st Stage.
‘They’re the Altar Boyz’ Part Two: Meet Zack Powell.
‘They’re the Altar Boyz’ Part Three: Meet Edward Nagel. 
‘They’re the Altar Boyz’ Part Four: Derek Tatum
‘They’re the Altar Boyz’ Part Five: BJ Gruber
They’re the Altar Boyz’ Part Six: Jonathan Walker.


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