Thursday, August 6, 2009

Celebration Theatre's Altar Boyz - A Match Made in Heaven

Altar Boyz cast Celebration

It had been a particularly long week, and all I really wanted to do was go see a good musical and be entertained. A fun night out at the theatre always makes me happy so I tend to see musicals often. Why mess with a good formula, right?

On the recommendation of a friend, I decided to see Celebration Theatre’s production of Altar Boyz, a musical I’d never seen before. While my friend hadn’t seen this particular production yet, he had seen it in New York and, according to him, it had been so much fun that he felt I’d enjoy it no matter who was in the cast or what theatre was producing it. Now, that speaks to good writing.

Well, he was absolutely right. From the moment the music started and the lights, dry ice and boys hit the stage; I knew I was in for a great night. In an opening number made in boy band heaven, “We are the Altar Boyz,” the audience meets heart throbs Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan and Abraham…and the fun begins. These boys are young, hip, charming, and full of talent a-plenty in the singing and dancing departments. It doesn’t hurt that they also cover an all-encompassing range of good looks either.

From boy next door Matthew (Jesse Bradley), lead singer and spokesman for the band, to Mark (Clifford Bañagale), the sweet yet powerful tenor who’s never far away from him, to Luke (Jake Wesley Stewart), the lovable but dim homeboy who’s spent time in rehab, each has a way of winning you over. Sexy Latin lover Juan (Robert Acinapura), has a story line that takes the boys into more serious subject matter when a surprise backfires onstage, adding a lovely contrast to the show.

Of course, everyone will have a favorite altar boy, and mine is Abraham (the Jewish one), played by Kelly Rice. As the final member to join the group, Rice displays expert timing, a gorgeous voice and dance moves that leave you unable to take your eyes off him. He does, after all, have real-life boy band experience and uses it quite effectively on stage here.

Together, they are the Altar Boyz, on a mission to save the soul of every audience member before the evening is over. The question is, will they be successful?

Directed by Patrick Pearson, choreographed by Ameenah Kaplan, with musical direction by Christopher Lloyd Bratten, Altar Boyz fits nicely into Celebration Theatre’s intimate setting. You’re close enough to the action to remain fully engaged with the characters while the production elements capture the look and energy of a fully-staged rock concert.

In the end, my search for an entertaining musical was successful. I left the theatre with more energy than when I had gone in and I was back in that happy mode I love so well.

Altar Boyz runs through August 30 at Celebration Theatre in Hollywood. For more information go to


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