Its story premise is simple, that’s its charm. The quintet of testosterone pumped boys destined for mega stardom are on the final leg of their uber uplifting, “Raise the Praise” Tour (pun intended). Their mission, to cast a spell over their audiences with honeyed harmonies, swiveling hips, inspirational dogma - to save all the lost souls temporarily in their charge. And when push comes to shove at the penultimate hour, each one of these born agains has a selfish-greed-lust driven egomaniacal secret to share. Bar one. It takes a Jewish perspective to get things into perspective - what is a star without its constellation!
In this fast-paced, consumer-overdrive secular age of ours it is now surprise that this musical has captured the popular imagination. Audiences (lapsed pilgrims perhaps) are pretty disenchanted with organised religion and still savour sweet satirical takes on the sacred. At the heart of Altar Boyz lies this very paradox.
At times, the show is having a shekel each way - satire one minute, dogma the next. But the music, the spellbinding funk from Robin Gavin’s quartet and delicious harmonizing from the flirtatious five - Dion Bilios, Jeremy Brennan, Andrew Koblar, Cameron MacDonald and Tim Maddren - propels us through the toe tapping pelvic thrusting ninety minute all singing all dancing show. And fortuitously, also propels us through the dramatic “episodes” that link the songs-as-story or verse-medley concept together.
That these narrative episodes are a little lacklustre, may have something to do five characters being saccharine sweet, and lacking the presence of a strong onstage antagonist, a bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks. In this play, the conceit is that, we, the audience are the baddies, the antagonisers, wilfully preventing the boys from achieving their soulful quest and raising that praise. We are clinging tight to deep dark secrets, not fessing up to whatever deeds or auguring well with the sacred spin. It makes for a great, if well worn comic device.
Director Kate Gaul has crafted a slick sweet piece of popular entertainment. Perhaps if there is any criticism to be levelled at all, its that this antagonising device errs a bit too much on the lightside, its huge potential, just within grasp. Perhaps it needs to be pushed a little further to cater for Australian audiences, over the edge of sweetness into that wondrous abyss of folly, critique and larrikin spirit we know as satire. That said, if you love the musical zeigeist right now - add this one to your must see list - all the cast truly do have a wow factor about them, not to mention the voices of angels.
Venue: Athenaeum Theatre | 188 Collins Street, Melbourne
Season: 2nd August – 13th September 2008
Times: Tuesday @ 6.30pm; Wednesday – Saturday @ 8.00pm; Sunday @ 6.00pm
Matinees: Saturday & Sunday 2.30pm
Prices: Adults: $48 - $55.90; Concessions from $40
Bookings: Ticketmaster 136 100 or Athenaeum (03) 9650 1500 | www.ticketmaster.com.au