Sheldon Gamabon (from left), Brandon Allen Wood, Brock Yurich, Robert Johnston and Alexander DuBeau Browne star in "Altar Boyz." (Florida Theatrical Association / October 14, 2011)
The Florida Theatrical Association's production of the Off-Broadway hit musical raises the roof of the new Abbey Theatre and sets the stage for things to come. Director Steve MacKinnon did an excellent job of casting for the roles of Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan and Abraham. The five energetic young actors pushed the limits of the stage with choreography by Kim Ball. The music of "Altar Boyz" seems to cover nearly every genre in the spectrum. While all the songs retain that classic pop feel, there is a satisfying variety and an array of over-the-top power ballads complete with the highest high notes mix with Latin-flavored tunes, hip-hop, and even a little rap. The melodies never get boring and are accompanied by a small live band with the sound of a big orchestra.
The story introduces us to Matt, Mark, Luke, Juan, and Abe (“He’s Jewish!”) who formed a Christian male singing group, Altar Boyz. They arrived to their final “Raise the Praise” concert tour destination, Orlando’s The Abbey, to spread the gospel as sung in the opening act, "We are the Altar Boyz" and "Rhythm in Me." Their ultimate goal throughout 90-minutes of pumpin’ poundin’ rhythmic music and non-stop high-energy choreography is to save your soul. With the aid of a high tech machine, Soul Sensor DX-12, the plan is to drop the number of burdened souls in the audience down to “0” and track the numbers of those who again, strayed from the flock. As each member provides his own perspective on the genesis of Altar Boyz, the personality and character quirks of each members “evolve”; the cast’s hilariously harmonious tunes and spirited dancing kept the audience clapping in rhythm throughout this comedic performance; “Jesus called me on my cell phone. No roaming charges were incurred” are lyrics in "The Calling."
Each Altar Boyz member has his own demon to contend with and at the same time needs to support each other for a successful concert. Get funky and rap with Brock Yurich in "Luke’s Miracle Song." Everybody Fits is where you can hear Alexander DuBeau Browne’s Abe desires to fit in with the group. Robert Johnston in Matt’s "Something About You" croons his reasons for abstinence to a gullible audience member pulled onto stage for her five minutes of fame. Sheldon Gamabon and Alexander DuBeau Browne’s Abe fast pace exchanges in "La Vida Eternal" didn’t miss a beat. "Epiphany" is confessed to be another favorite that Brandon Allen Wood as Mark soars through a wide vocal range. Each talented cast member’s character shines individually and also together, especially in the fast pace choreographed dances.
Altar Boyz will continue to perform at The Abbey, 100 S. Eola Drive, Downtown Orlando through November 13th. Tickets are $26, for more information call 407-704-6261 or online at AbbeyOrlando.com..