|(The cast of "Altar Boyz" at the Hanna Theatre. Photo courtesy of PlayhouseSquare.)|
This off-off-Broadway lark chronicles the breakup of a Christian boy band. Ostensibly, it's a swipe at pious rock 'n' roll. Yet, in spite of its satiric pokes at chastity, gay crushes, Jews who shill for Jesus and soul-saving theatrics, the show is about as subversive as a rerun of "A Charlie Brown Christmas." The score, by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker, keeps its flavor for approximately the same length of time as a stick of Wrigley chewing gum.
What keeps these boyz afloat for 90 minutes is the show's unabashed, Glee-ish bonhomie. On the Hanna stage, this giddiness is brought to winking, but never obnoxious, fruition by director Scott Spence and his obliging cast. As the group's leader, Josh Rhett Noble hypnotizes with his Elmer Gantry-on-steroids grin. As Juan, Ryan Jagru pulverizes English with a nutty, Desi Arnaz aplomb. Connor O'Brien confounds us with a Yiddishkeit worthy of Bing Crosby. And as the smitten Mark, Matthew Ryan Thompson out-twinkles Tinker Bell.
To make it all glow, lighting designer Trad A Burns imbues the stage with a Jesus Christ Superstar radiance. Best of all, choreographer Hernando Cortez manages to maneuver his boyz as if they were the Bill Baird Marionettes dancing for the delectation of Captain von Trapp and guests.
"Altar Boyz" may not save your soul, but it will do much to banish the chill from a wintry Saturday night.
"Altar Boyz" runs through Sunday, Jan. 30 at the Hanna Theatre. For tickets, go to playhousesquare.org or call 216-241-6000.