A lil prai’z for the boyz

ken chamberland, aidan deSalaiz, jeigh madjus, eric morin, stephen roberts
There are some new musical theatre kids on the block! They are called Angelwalk Theatre, a new professional theatre company dedicated to producing artistically exciting theatrical works, with a special focus on musical theatre. Angelwalk Theatre, under Artistic Producer Brian Goldenberg, is the resident company of the Studio Theatre at the Toronto Centre for the Arts and seeks to provide opportunities for both emerging and established Canadian theatre professionals. Their inaugural production, playing until October 11th, 2009, is the Toronto Premiere of Altar Boyz, a show which opened Off-Broadway on March 1, 2005, won the ’05 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway musical and has been running there ever since.
Altar Boyz, with book by Kevin Del Aguila and music and lyrics by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker, is a tribute to the boy-band craze of the 1990s coupled with the emergence of Christian rock. This show takes the audience to the last concert in the fictitious Christian boy band, the Altar Boyz’, “Raise the Praise” tour and while the plot is thin with a penchant toward cheese, the music creates a fun, electric, entertaining evening at the theatre.
Adler and Walker’s music is a fantastically catchy pastiche of the music of such 90s bands as The Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, and 98 Degrees, while their lyrics, such as “Jesus called me on my cell phone,” are laden with ironic subtext, yet are just cheeky enough to be hilarious without being blatantly offensive. The show does, in it’s own gentle way, raise pertinent questions about the inconsistency of Christian doctrine and the validity of saving souls, although the politics are continually overshadowed by laughter and dance.
The show is directed and choreographed by Tim French and the choreography is absolutely incredible in its likeness to that of the boy-bands in the 1990s. It is clean, ultimately crisp, full of energy and boyish testosterone, and there is even a chair routine! French also keeps the audience continually engaged in the action, in pure concert style, and the action has urgency to it because in parts it succeeds in feeling unscripted.
All five of the boyz in this production have created fantastically strong and unique characters, and each one has a dreamy boy-band voice and vibrant, strong dance skills. It is also incredible to watch all five dance in tandem because each one infuses his movement with so much individuality.
Ken Chamberland plays Matthew, the leader of the band, who is particularly fantastic at channeling his inner heartthrob as he sings the band’s obligatory love song. Jeigh Madjus is incredible as Mark, who shines with exhilarated righteousness with every muscle in his bright, smiley face, and whose heart is filled with lust. Madjus is incredibly compelling, his smooth voice soars beautifully and he brings the house down with his incredible rendition of “Epiphany.” Eric Morin channels A.J. MacLean to uproarious effect as Luke, the rehabilitated. His every movement and facial gesture is impeccable, and it is hilarious and invigorating to watch him rap his way to Heaven. Aidan deSalaiz plays Juan with exorbitant Latin flair and passion. He is filled with charisma and pays perfect homage to the days spent living la vida loca with Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin. Stephen Roberts plays Abraham, a Jewish boy with a talent for lyric writing who haphazardly finds himself thrust in the middle of Bible Camp. Roberts plays Abe with a captivating earnestness and pulls out some incredible gymnastic moves during the essential break dancing segment.
Despite a few sound issues, the band mix threatens to overwhelm the vocals at times, Angelwalk Theatre’s first production is an energetic and amusing show teeming with talent. I strongly encourage you to check out this new theatre company and its show at the Toronto Centre for the Performing Art’s Studio Theatre. Call for tickets today, God is in da house, make sure He doesn’t steal your seat!
Altar Boys plays until October 11th, 2009; Wednesday to Saturday at 8pm, and Sunday at 2pm. There is an additional performance on Saturday October 3rd at 2pm. Toronto Centre for the Arts- Studio Theatre (5040 Yonge Street). For tickets please call 416.872.1111 or visit http://www.angelwalk.ca/.

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