ALTAR BOYZ (11th Hour): Raising the Praise!

(Left to right) Adam Hoyak, Nicholas Park, Billy Kametz, Michael Linden, and Robert Hager in 11th Hour’s ALTAR BOYZ (Photo credit: John Flak)

(Left to right) Adam Hoyak, Nicholas Park, Billy Kametz, Michael Linden, and Robert Hager in 11th Hour’s ALTAR BOYZ (Photo credit: John Flak)

Nothing is sacred in ALTAR BOYZ, an entertaining send-up of Christian rock, insidious commercialism, and marketable demographics now in production by 11th Hour Theatre Company. Conceived by Marc Kessler and Ken Davenport, the high-energy concert parody (book by Kevin Del Aguila, music and lyrics by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker) lampoons everything from teen idols and Jews for Jesus to Latino accents, repressed sexuality, and the temptation of betrayal for fame and fortune.

The fast-paced spoof about a boy band saving the souls of an audience of sinners on the last stop of their “Raise the Praise” tour is filled with witty references to the Bible, the Passion of Christ, and the Catholic liturgy. The Boyz—aptly named Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan, and Abraham–proselytize to prospective believers in real time through their songs, employing post-modern technology, current slang, and choreographed moves that gently skewer such popular acts as the Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync.

11th Hour’s artistic team creates the look and feel of a real rock concert, with fog effects, strobe lights, illuminated steps that change colors (lighting design by John Bryant), and a stage-within-a-stage (set by Maura Roche). The costumes (Amanda Wolff) and props (Christopher Haig) cleverly combine contemporary street chic with traditional Christian imagery; even the show’s high-decibel back-up band is led by musical director Jamison Foreman in a priest’s shirt and collar.

Adam Hoyak (Matthew, the group’s heartthrob leader), Nicholas Park (Mark, the “sensitive one” with a crush on his bandmate), Billy Kametz (Luke, the hip-hop bad-boy, in and out of rehab for “exhaustion”), Robert Hager (Juan, the gyrating Latin lover), and Michael Linden (Abraham, the Messianic Jew who values brotherhood over self) portray the ensemble of Pop-culture stereotypes with humor and flair. The actors’ terrific vocal harmonies, synchronized movements (choreographed by Samuel Antonio Reyes), and rock-star charm and good looks give real boy bands some serious competition, as they perform satirical songs about sexual abstinence until marriage (“Something About You”), the joy of self-delusion (“Epiphany”), and receiving divine inspiration from Jesus via smart phone (“The Calling”), and deliver amusing double entendres (“Rhythm In Me”) and well-conceived wordplays (“Mary Magdelicious”). It’s smart, funny, and skillfully executed, though the authentic rock-concert volume might leave your ears ringing! [The Arts Bank, 601 S. Broad St.] May 15-June 1, 2014; www.11thhourtheatrecompany.org.

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About the author

Debra Miller

Debra holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Delaware and teaches at Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ. She is a judge for the Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre, Philadelphia Arts and Culture Correspondent for Central Voice, and has served as a Commonwealth Speaker for the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and President of the Board of Directors of Da Vinci Art Alliance. Her publications include articles, books, and catalogues on Renaissance, Baroque, American, Pre-Columbian, and Contemporary Art, and feature articles on the Philadelphia theater scene.