“Altar Boyz” — the laugh-out-loud satire of Christian boy bands now on stage at Elmsford’s Westchester Broadway Theatre — has its tongue blissfully planted in its cheek.
The book by Kevin Del Aguila and music and lyrics by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker introduce us a boy band — think ‘N Sync and all its faux bad-boy vibe — with a Christian message: “We don’t believe in hurtin’ or hatin’ ’cause that’s the thing that leads to Satan.”
Like any boy band worth its salt, each of the Altar Boyz has his role to play: Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan — and Abraham.
Matthew (the solid and likeable Ralph Mietzler) is the hot one, the singleminded front man.
Mark (the hilarious Patrick Elliott) is the thoughtful one, the one who is deeper and might just have a secret. He does, of course, but he keeps it hidden from the band, if not the audience, even after an over-the-top 11th-hour “Epiphany.”
Luke (played with deadpan seriousness by Travis Morin) is the rough-around-the-edges one, the one with a past — a history of “exhaustion.” Luke, who contributes to the effort by driving the van, isn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed.
Juan, the Latin one, is the comic Patrick Ortiz, who plays with the audience and channels his inner Ricky Martin to full potential.
Then there’s Abraham, the Jewish one, although how he came to join a Christian boy band isn’t clear until the very end. Ian Joseph brings a naiveté and all-for-one-one-for-all aesthetic that is refreshing.
The Boyz are here — on the final stop of their national “Raise the Praise” tour — to save souls, aided by the Sony Soul Sensor DX12, a device that can take the metaphysical temperature of the room. Early Soul Sensor readings on Opening Night found the Elmsford audience in dire need of saving, a fact the boyz set out to remedy.
“We’re here to save souls through popular music,” one says.
“Yeah. Music is da bomb,” another adds, cheesy grin set on high.
The juxtaposition of a bad-boy vibe wrapped in Sunday school innocence is simply hilarious. When they bust a move, they’re doing it for the Lord. And hearing them say “Aight” with their Pepsodent smiles is worth the price of admission.
Through a dozen songs, we learn what’s important to the boyz, with lyrics about getting the call (“Jesus called me on my cell phone”), choosing abstinence (“Girl, you make me want to wait”), and determination (“You gotta work on your soul”).
None of them plays for laughs, but the laughs come in waves, propelled by the direction and choreography of Carlos Encinias, who keeps the action moving in the intermissionless 90 minutes. They sing flawlessly and move in perfectly synchronized dance breaks that brought whoops from the crowd.
Music director Julie McBride’s four piece band — McBride and David Gardos on keyboards, David Shoup on guitar and Ken Ross on drums — is on-stage throughout the action, encircled in Steven Loftus’ ingenious circular ramp.
Along the way, their earnestness of purpose is rewarded, at least if you put your faith in the Soul Sensor.
There is a message here, one the boyz knew at the outset, but which they had to learn for themselves: “There is no harmony in one voice” and “No star is as bright as its constellation.”
It’s a matter of faith — and faithful WBT audiences are rewarded with satire at its sharpest.
“Altar Boyz” Through Sept. 18. Shows at 1 and 8 p.m., Thursdays; no show on Fridays; at 8 p.m. Saturday; at 1:30 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Meal service begins two hours before curtain. Westchester Broadway Theatre, 1 Broadway Plaza, Elmsford. $75, $65 for seniors, $52 those 16 and younger. 914-592-2222. Go to the Westchester Broadway Theatre website.
Photo by John Vecchiolla: The Altar Boyz, from left: Travis Morin (Luke), Patrick Ortiz (Juan), Ralph Meitzler (Matthew), (understudy) Adam Cassel (Mark) and Ian Joseph (Abraham).