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Altar Boyz

ALTAR BOYZ, based on the Book by Kevin Del Aguila. Music and Lyrics by Gary Adler and Patrick Walker. Conceived by Marc Kessler and Ken Davenport. At the Everest Theatre, Seymour Centre, 11 June – 2 August 2008.

There will be a preamble. Forgive me. In the tradition of Alison Croggon, the Melbourne Art Blogger (see her notes on The Serpent’s Teeth) I thought I should declare my self interests when talking about ALTAR BOYZ.

In my last blog concerning STONING MARY I complained of the series of doom and gloom works I had experienced this year and protested that I longed for another contrasting vision. On approaching ALTAR BOYZ I wondered whether I would regret what I had wished for.

It is well established, and I am often quoted as saying, that “I HATE MUSICALS”. “I THINK THEY ARE A DEAD FORM AND ARE MANIPULATIVE SENTIMENTALITIES. PUERILE.” Now I will confess they are really my Guilty Pleasure. (I still am sometimes found at amateur theatre productions of musicals especially if they are Sondheim. (FOLLIES when are you coming??????) It all dates back to my first professional theatre experience as a 16 year old when I sneaked off from my formal studies to the old Theatre Royal with my Teacher’s College Scholarship Funds to see a matinee of OLIVER with Andrew Sharp as the Dodger, Tony Sheldon as Oliver and his mum Toni Lamond as Nancy. So swept out of my world was I, that I went back that night to see it again. My affliction goes quite some way back!!!

I am…

A : An ex-Catholic (Or an RC ,that is a retired Catholic.)
B : An ex-Altar Boy.
C : Although I am not an ex Boy Band member I am an ex-choir singer from the North Ryde Parish Church.

Firstly I should like to congratulate the new kid on the block in Australian theatre production world OVATIONS LIVE (Steve Loe and Colin Grayson) (We need more of you on the scene) for their timing and perspicacious eye in finding a project that may serve as an antidote to the behemoth Production House of the Catholic Church Australia, the Vatican State, the NSW State and the City of Sydney Council (How many are Catholics or RC’s in those decision making networks) courtesy of the ordinary tax payers. I have been sliding into a quite deep pit of despair as I saw reminders of WORLD YOUTH DAY (or rather WORLD CATHOLIC YOUTH DAY) on television and even courtesy of the RTA Authorities on the Pacific Highway. “30 Days to go” etc….That Production House trumpets two highlights of the coming July Theatre Season: THE STATIONS OF THE CROSS that will be reminiscent of the great Medieval Mystery Cycles, staged scenes in different locations around the city of Sydney. We will be able to see Betrayals, Mock Trials, Popular Justice (Vote 1 for Barabas or 2 for Jesus), Public Tortures (Flagellation), Public Abuses (Crown of Thorns forced on the head until firm and won’t fall off) culminating in not one but three barbarous Crucifixions on a Winter Day in Sydney in the year 2008, free of charge. To be followed by the witnessing of a Dogma of Faith: the magic, sorry, miracle of the transubstantiation of ordinary wine and bread into the actual blood and body of the Christ which we in an interaction will be able to ingest, performed by the star, sorry, the Pope and many robed acolytes. I believe there may be an entrance fee. Check The World Youth day web site. (I especially look forward to the Design by Michael Scott-Mitchell as he has achieved so much in memorable work for The Olympic Movement and latterly the Dohar Games.) The chosen site for this event is at the Temple of Gambling and Intoxication (Many Aussie-Irish Catholic memories there I can tell you) at the site known as Randwick Racing Club. My secret hope is that someone will organise an SMS Happening for crowds of people dressed as Martin Luther to suddenly appear at different locations with a scroll of demands and a hammer and large nail to protest. Forgive my persiflage but last night Altar Boyz stimulated me into a state of creativity into understanding my reaction to my night in the theatre

ALTAR BOYZ is very simple in its idea. It is the recreation of a Catholic Boy Band made up of Matthew (Cameron MacDonald), Mark (Dion Bilios), Luke (Tim Maddren) and Juan (Jeremy Brennan). Plus Abraham (Andrew Koblar) giving the final performance of their National Raise the Praise Tour. The Book is simple and the Lyrics are satirically amusing. The music generic sounding Boy Band stuff. The performers give a full on 90 minute Olympic stamina and skill display of very intricate and funny choreography, each of the characters with individual iconic body language. The sound within the genre is very “bel canto “but could do with many more consonants (NB Mr Maddren esp, attend Ms White). The Acting is classic Musical Theatre Presentational. I laughed out loud often. On more than several occasions I was actually moved to hoot!!! And I have to confess I was manipulated into a few teary moments of Musical Theatre bliss. The band led by Robert Gavin has a great punch. The Design: Set, pragmatically boring; the costumes terrific (Andy McDonell). Lights theatrically useful (Luiz Pampolha). All of this is brought together by Kate Gaul. Her work is clean and lean. Within the limits of the piece it has great unfussy Artistic Integrity. Tight inevitability. (Eat your heart out Ms Edwards and Mr Armfield and maybe move over. There is a new star in town. Looking at her resume in the program there is an astonishing range of work and high achievement.)

Look this is SILLY, SILLY, SILLY but it is FUN FUN FUN and I exhort you to GO, GO, GO.

In the last years of my schooling at the MARIST BROTHERS we had a text book called THE CHRISTIAN GENTLEMAN which we read in Religion Period every Friday between 1.30pm and 2.10pm. I remember somewhere that we were warned never in polite society to ever talk Politics or Religion. If you loved KEATING then you transgressed that rule. If you have kept Peter Carroll in work and Ron Blair in Petty Cash by attending THE CHRISTIAN BROTHER over the many years past, then I know that you will love ALTAR BOYZ and will transgress again. “Bless me Father for I have sinned, it has been many years since my last confession.” Another Guilty pleasure.

2 replies to “Altar Boyz”

  1. Dear Kevin

    On the basis of your informed and informative review I went to the matinee of Altar Boyz today. Yes, it’s fun fun fun. I am one that has fled from the theatre in the past screaming “I’ll never see another musical as long as I live!!” But I’m with the crotch-grabbing kids at the end of this on – screaming for more. Kevin as a regular reader of your blog I wondered if you’d seen Kate Gaul’s production of Twelfth Night earlier this year – re: your comments on Romeo and Juliet at STC. Twelfth Night was played by 7 actors (I think) and was artfully abridged – not a jot of the original Shakespearean spirit/sense was lost – I think cutting and smaller cast production can be done —well, certainly on the basis of this experience earlier this year. Anyway, keep up the great work Kevin – will we see a review of Hamlet???

  2. Follies is on in Melbourne soon Kevin, if you want to satisfy your guilty pleasure…

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