Pros: An incredibly talented cast, playing on great relationships between each other on stage and performing musical numbers and innuendo to a rapturous audience.
Cons: Campy innuendo bordered on repetitive
Altar Boyz at the lovely Greenwich Theatre is a camp, tongue-in-cheek musical comedy that takes us through the story of the titular boy band on the last night of their world tour. The ‘Raise the Praise’ tour is coming to an end, and Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan and Abraham are thrilled to be in Greenwich to sing for us and save each of our souls. The comically fictional product-placed ‘Sony Soul Sensor’ hangs above the stage throughout, counting down as each of us ‘sees the light’ thanks to the Boyz’ testimony.
The set and introductory voiceovers are in the familiar style of a television voice talent competition, and it’s impossible not to feel like we’re in the audience of something similar. First come the booming introductions, followed by explosions of glitter, confetti cannons and fire at regular intervals to keep up the outrageous, high-energy atmosphere.
The cast members are all undeniably talented, and each character represents a trope we might commonly associate with pop stars and popular culture over the years. Particularly notable Luke, who is, whilst totally lovable, a little rough around the edges and has trouble remembering some of the things that the boys have experienced on their journey due to his on-going battle with ‘exhaustion’.
The on-stage band works really well, and whether this is the style of music which appeals to you or not, there is no denying the quality of the musical arrangements and the consistent energy and fantastic harmonising of the company.
There is a stand out performance from Jonny Fines as Mark. His incredible voice, natural humour, movement and facial expressions conveying his unrequited love for Matthew, were highlights throughout. His ‘Epiphany’ number, which was set up to be an over-the-top confession song about being gay, but quickly turned into the story of how he’d seen the light, professing ‘I’m catholic’, was predictable but incredibly funny thanks to Fines’ brilliant comic timing.
The production played Off-Broadway for years and the cast still play on the American characterisations; ‘Green-Wich!’, but there are few subtle touches which ensures it is firmly playing to its English audience, including a reference to Elaine Page’s musicals show on Radio 2, which was joyously welcomed.
There was a danger of the relentless innuendo becoming grating, and the thought of spending an evening falling somewhere between a Soho nightclub, boy band concert and X Factor style church service would certainly strike fear into many. But the comedy from the cast and the polished musical numbers meant a thoroughly enjoyable and hilariously entertaining evening.
Authors: Kevin Del Aguila, Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker
Director: Steven Dexter
Producer: Paul Taylor-Mills Ltd
Booking Until: 18 October 2014
Box Office: 020 8858 7755
Booking Link: http://ticketing.greenwichtheatre.org.uk/single/EventListing.aspx