Saturday, April 17, 2010

- Theater Review - Altar Boyz

Praise the Lord!
Eastlight Theater opens their 2010 season with a big bang.

Or more accurately, with a joyful noise.

"ALTAR BOYZ" is presented as a concert event by a touring boy band that specializes in Christian music.

The five boys are Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan, and Abraham.
Matthew (Jeremy Kelly) is the ambitious leader of the band. Mark (Brandon Chandler) is the gay one with a not-so-secret crush on Matthew. Luke (Derek Pitzer) is the bad boy fresh from a stint in rehab for "exhaustion". Juan (Bryan Blanks) is the 'ethnic one' who longs to find the parents he never knew. Abraham (Stephen Dean Peterson) is the Jewish one and the band's lyricist who finds himself as the only non-Christian in a Catholic boy band.

The group's "Raise the Praise" tour is intended to evangelize and they measure the success of their mission through the Sony Soul Sensor DX-12, a machine that measures the number of troubled souls in the theater.

Each gospel-flavored song lowers the number until only four remain.
It turns out that those four belong to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Juan who have each signed a solo record deal and are struggling with the issues of loyalty and trust.

Abraham brings them back and heals their souls with the beautiful song "I Believe".

One great line is delivered during a flashback sequence showing how the Altar Boyz originally met.
When Abraham wanders into the Catholic church, he encounters Luke who wonders if Jews are even allowed in the church.
Abraham replies "Oh, I'm pretty sure they are. I just saw one on a cross over the altar."

This play is funny with a good score. Each of the five actors do an excellent job. They have good voices and the choreography, which is sometimes scaled back for a local theater group, is full throttle here. These boyz tear it up, and Luke's 'worm dance' is a real showstopper!

I last saw this show in Chicago with a professional touring company and I honestly think these local boyz did it better.

For the last many years, Eastlight Theater, under the guidance of Kathy Chitwood, has set the bar for local theater. They have hosted a couple world premiers, and first time community theater events (e.g. "Rent"), and consistently have brought fresh new professional-quality theater to the area. If I'm not mistaken, this is the first time "Altar Boyz" has been presented locally.
I was saddened to hear of Kathy's decision to leave Eastlight. I hope that whoever succeeds her will be able to continue their fine tradition of exciting and innovative theater.

Eastlight has a shortened season this year (only three featured plays and the perennial "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat".) I suppose this is due to the money woes that are facing all Arts organizations.

So, please get out and see this one.
Local theater can continue only with YOUR support.


Kathy Chitwood said...

The guys really are great, aren't they? We are so fortunate to have such talented local artists who can continue to bring us wonderful theatrical experiences. (And thank goodness there was finally an opportunity to feature Derek Pitzer's 'worm' dance movement!)

Couple of clarifications...Eastlight's shortened schedule this year is due to the continued construction at East Peoria HS. The June show had to be moved to September because the old cafeteria is being renovated into a new Fine Arts wing - and the construction closes the theatre wing to the public for safety issues. Also Eastlight was thrilled to continue the ALTAR BOYZ tour after its presentation at Peoria Players last June.

You will feel 'blessed' to see ALTAR BOYZ!

Paul R Day said...

Thanks for the corrections, Kathy.
And thanks for your tireless support of theater and the arts in the Peoria area. You will certainly be missed at Eastlight.

Derek said...

Thanks for the write up! Glad my "worm" is appriciated!

Derek's friend said...

That's what she said!