Charming 'hymns' light up 'Altar Boyz'
by Michael Sommers


An adorable romp with a Christian boy band, "Altar Boyz" is a cinch to win over swingers and Sunday school teachers alike.


Truly I say to you, there's nothing blasphemous and everything to enjoy about this cute little musical, which premiered yesterday at Dodger Stages.


A 90-minute white tornado of tasty pop tunes and nifty synchronized moves, the show is conceived as a one-night-only concert performed by the Altar Boyz, a five- member combo of angel-faced appeal and nice Christian ideals.


They're here in New York to brighten smudged souls through music and rhyme, and although the show is meant by its real-life makers as a sly send-up of boy bands like 'N Sync and 98 Degrees, you can't help but feel better afterward for seeing these guys do their righteous thing.


Give a big "halo" to the Boyz:


Looking like the offspring of Tom Cruise or Matt Damon, Matthew (Scott Porter) is the dreamboat leader of the band. Mark (Tyler Maynard) is a beaming sweetie with a secret to confess. Luke (Andy Karl) is the Italian- American homeboy with rehab bouts of "exhaustion." Juan (Ryan Duncan) is a suave Latino heartthrob. Abraham (David Josefsberg) is the Jew for Jesus who mutters "Baruch ata" as he makes with a beatbox rhythm.


No less than "American Top 40" radio deejay Shadoe Stevens recorded the heavenly voiceover, which bands the Boyz into perfect harmony. "Hitherto shalt thou anoint thy hair with product and gird up thy loins in pleather," he commands them. "Lest ye skeweth unto an older demographic -- which is detestable in Mine eyes."


And so the guys cavort through their concert of a dozen enjoyable songs by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker. "Jesus Called Me on My Cell Phone" is a high-energy testament to their calling. "Something About You" is Matthew's swooning ballad (to a blushing member of the audience) regarding the sexiness of abstinence. "La Vida Eternal" is a hot salsa view of heaven. Another high point is a hilarious "Get the Hell Out" bout of rock and rolling exorcism.


The lyrics have their tongue-in- cheek moments ("God put the rhythm in me so I could bust a move"), but there's actually some good news in these messages of fellowship and charity.

The unassuming, in-the-moment script by Kevin Del Aguila is slim, but amusing enough to frame the numbers that are delivered with such satisfying flash. Witty choreography by Christopher Gattelli, which careens from hip-hop to merengue to sharply synchronized locomotion, provides a visual treat.


With excellent support from his arrangers, musicians and designers -- especially Natasha Katz, whose dynamic lighting pumps up the excitement -- director Stafford Arima maintains a correct tone of sexy wholesomeness, subtly interlaced with satire.


It's a tricky concept, but Arima achieves it flawlessly, thanks to the personable expertise of his performers. These charismatic fellas are sure to lure teens away from "Wicked" just down the street (especially since this off-Broadway show's producers offer last-minute $20 tickets).


Although the music is more contemporary and the story is simpler, the good-humored appeal of "Altar Boyz" is reminiscent of "Forever Plaid" and "Nunsense" and it's likely that this divine little show will prove just as popular.