Boyz to men
by Jacques Le Sourd


When is a spoof not really a spoof?


When it's so straightforward, with so much affection and humor, that you wind up liking whatever is being spoofed.


Example: a sweet (and occasionally sassy) new musical called "Altar Boyz," which opened last night somewhere in the maze known as the Dodger Stages.


This is a witty and completely unpretentious spoof — but not really — of a Christian boy band that sings songs about Jesus in the style of 'N Sync.


Beautifully choreographed by Christopher Gattelli, the brisk, intermissionless, 90-minute show sends everybody out of the theater on a cloud of mirth.


And we mean everybody, whether fundamentally religious or highly skeptical of the religious fashion that seems to have taken over the country.


One pictures this show going on the road and capturing the hearts of blue states and red states alike, kind of like "Nunsense" did 20 years ago. Finally, a show to unite the country.


Four of the five members of Altar Boyz are named for the writers of the Gospels. The sultry Scott Parker is Matthew. The hugely talented Tyler Maynard is Mark. Andy Karl, with a hint of the hip-hop bad boy, is Luke. Ryan Duncan, with an accent, is Juan. David Josefsburg is named for a figure in another part of the Bible, Abraham. He's Jewish.


Four musicians sit onstage, behind the performers. Stafford Arima directs in a fast-moving manner that leaves no pauses, and Kevin Del Aguila's book makes the action glide smoothly from one number to another. The upbeat music and lyrics are by newcomers Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker.


There is also a sixth, inanimate character. It is introduced as the Soul Sensor DX-12, which monitors the souls in the audience and counts how many need saving. The goal, of course, is zero.


In the course of the show, the number goes up and down.


To round up the few remaining lost souls, the boys do a late number that comes close to an excorcism, complete with unseen fans blowing at their hair.


There are, of course, layers of references here, which you can choose to read or cheerfully ignore.


It's hilarious, of course, how hip these youngsters try to be as they hammer home their strictly mainstream message of sexual abstinence, clean living and relentless spiritual fervor.


In a number called "Epiphany," Mark even builds to a big out-of-the-closet revelation. You hold your breath, and then he comes out with it: "I'm a Cath'lic, that's me."


In the end, the Soul Sensor reaches a perfect score: There's not a soul in the theater that isn't captured.