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Theater review: 'Altar Boyz' at Celebration Theatre

July 16, 2009 |  3:30 pm

With Lance sprung from the closet and Justin situated comfortably at the top of the charts, any jokes about boy bands these days are almost certain to feel stale and behind the curve. So it comes as a pleasant surprise that "Altar Boyz," the 2004 theatrical satire of the aforementioned pop phenomenon, still manages to pack a rather potent comical punch. Celebration Theatre's current production is an enjoyably fleet-footed affair, featuring a hilarious and swoon-worthy cast that's bursting with charisma.

The musical tells the story of a five-member Christian pop group on the last leg of its world tour. Sporting biblical names, the singers fall comfortably into quotation-marked archetypes -- Matthew (Jesse Bradley), the white-bread dreamboat lead singer; Mark (Clifford Bañagale), the high-pitched effeminate one; Luke (Jake Wesley Stewart), the homeboy with a substance-abuse problem; Juan (Robert Acinapura), the Latin stallion; and Abraham (Kelly Rice), the lapsed Jew.

The cast, under the direction of Patrick Pearson, performs the show's 13 numbers with just the right combination of angel-faced oblivion and winking sexual innuendo. Written by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker (with a book by Kevin Del Aguila), the show sends up the boy-band craze while also giving in to its irresistible appeal. It's a kind-hearted satire whose jokes can be read in countless ways.

"Altar Boyz," which is currently in its fourth year off-Broadway, shows no signs of slowing down. May it be blessed with eternal life.

-- David Ng

"Altar Boyz." The Celebration Theatre, 7051B Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. 8 p.m., Thursdays through Saturdays; 3 p.m., Sundays. $30. (323) 957-1884 or Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Photo: The cast of "Altar Boyz" at the Celebration Theatre. Credit: Michael Joseph