Thou shalt enjoy: Altar Boyz

Altar Boyz, an off-Broadway hit currently on a national tour, opened in Pittsburgh last Tuesday at the Byham Theater. Intended to resemble the final concert of a boy band’s tour, the musical simultaneously satirizes both boy bands and Christian pop music. Through the energetic opening number, “We are the Altar Boyz,” the audience is introduced to the titular boy band. The pop sensation that’s sweeping the nation consists of Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan, and Abraham (he’s Jewish). The group leads the audience in a story of what it means to truly be a boy band, religious or not — from genesis through final revelations.

Despite the catchy music and captivating choreography, it is probably the characters that make the musical as charming as it is. There’s Matthew, the quintessential boy band leader. Big muscles, buzz cut, wifebeater — sound like any boy band members you’ve heard of? Then there’s Mark, whose hilarious flamboyance highlights his hugely transparent crush on Matthew. Luke, the ghetto superstar, just got back from his rehab stint, where he was treated for “exhaustion.” Juan, the poor orphan left on the front steps of a nunnery in Tijuana, is desperately trying to find the parents who brought him into this vida loca. And, Abraham, the Jewish one, is convinced he was brought into the group by accident — but that doesn’t stop him from coming up with the band’s amazing lyrics. Commanded by God to “Gel thy hair with product and gird thy loins with pleather, lest ye skew thyselves to an older demographic, which is an abomination before mine eyes,” the group sets off to conquer the hearts — and souls — of preteen girls everywhere. Each member is craftily chosen for his special talent in the band. Matthew writes music, Mark does choreography, Juan works on costumes, Abraham is the lyricist, and Luke... well, he drives the van, hopefully not while under the influence of...“exhaustion.”

The group performs with the aid of the Soul Sensor DX-12. The goal during every concert is to reduce, through the band’s music and “message,” the number of souls in the audience burdened with sin. The Soul Sensor DX-12, a Sony product, lets the boys know how many burdened souls are in the room. The Boyz race against the clock to save the audience from H-E-double-hockey-sticks — but can they save Pittsburgh in time?

Tuesday night’s performance was phenomenal. As the superstition goes, the cast of Altar Boyz must have had an atrocious dress rehearsal — judging from an incredible opening night. The Altar Boyz’s endeavor to mimic an actual boy band was successful, to say the least. Members of the audience were visibly fighting the urge to scream like teenage girls. The choreography was straight out of an N*SYNC video — one of the better ones, before Justin let his ego get the best of him. Most importantly, the performers’ harmonizing abilities far surpassed every boy band of the era. One of the highlights of the show was the song “Something About You,” the requisite ballad sung to a swooning female audience member — also a song promoting abstinence. The song was hilarious up to its final lines: “Until my wedding date, I guess I’ll just have to master... my own fate.”

If satire, witty double entendres, and catchy pop music are up your alley, you won’t want to miss this show. They’re the Altar Boyz, and they’re going to alter your mind.