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Dominion Stage Altar Boyz

By • Oct 7th, 2010 • Category: Reviews
Altar Boyz Book by Kevin Del Aguila; Music and Lyrics by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker
Dominion Stage
Gunston Arts Center, Arlington, VA
Through October 17th
1:45 with one intermission
$15
Reviewed October 2, 2010

Combine the parochial humor of Nunsense and Do Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? with the fresh young fellows verve of ‘N Sync and Backstreet Boys. Result? Altar Boyz.

The show is a musical revue. It features four almost grown up former Roman Catholic acolytes, plus their Jewish buddy. Said buddy was recruited to write lyrics and retained to perform. The group is supposedly in the midst of its “Raise the Praise” tour. The Boyz are Matthew (businesslike), Mark (swishy), Luke (hunky and dopey), Juan (fiery) and Abraham (Jewish and literate).

Altar Boyz was an off-Broadway attraction for nearly five years, beginning in 2005. Then there were touring productions of the show. Then regional professional theaters all over the world picked it up. And now community theaters — including Arlington’s Dominion Stage — are having fun with it.

The Dominion Stage production, directed and choreographed by Patrick M. Doneghy with musical direction by Keith Tittermary, is lively. The story combines innocent humor with a smidgen of sentimentality. As will happen with musicals about musical groups (Dream Girls is an outstanding example) the mechanics of bonding and disintegration furnish a sketchy plot. In Altar Boyz, it is up to Abraham, the outsider, to apply enough sentiment to effect post-fragmentation reintegration.

The songs are a mix of disco-pop, gospel-pop, hip-hop-pop, Latino-pop and just plain pop ballad pop.

The Dominion cast members make up with pizazz they lack in polish. Aaron Alexander plays Juan, Mickey DaGuiso is Mark, Patrick Kim is Matthew, Chase Maggiano is Abraham and Rob White is Luke. Their singing is emphatic, if not always intelligible. Their dancing is peppy, if not always precisely coordinated.

One of the show’s high points is Kim’s bizarre love ballad combining romantic feelings with an unshakable reverence to abstinence until marriage. Also notable is DaGuiso’s soaring self-affirmation anthem. It seems that his character, routinely set upon by “Episcopalian thugs,” is about to come out as gay. But then ….

Sometimes enhancing and sometimes distracting are giant projections on a back wall. Stained glass window reproductions offer pertinent details. But constantly changing arrays of vastly enlarged photos take over the proceedings and literally upstage the performers.

The Nunsense comedies are a fading memory. And whatever became of ‘N Sync? By fusing the waning vigor of Catholic spoof comedy with by-gone boy group vitality, however, Altar Boyz demonstrates the well-known staying power of hybrids.

From the Director

So, I guess the best way to start these notes is with a confession Session of my very own. I was never an altar boy. Oh! I wanted to be one. But, there was one small problem. I am not a Catholic. However, this fact did not stop my parents from sending me to Catholic school for grades 2 thru 12 (I also decided to graduate from a Jesuit University, but that was my own decision). So we attended Mass during school, I would watch my Catholic friends get to be a part of a ceremony of the Catholic Church and I’d think to myself, “all those people are drinking out of the cup.” But, more then that I could see the sense of camaraderie my friends had sharing not only in their faith, but in taking a break from the usual mayhem we would cause during the school day and going to a place of peace and reverence. Oh, of course once mass had ended we were back to our same old tricks, but during those times in church they were all about “the big man upstairs.”

When the opportunity to direct Altar Boyz came along I immediately thought back to those school days with my catholic friends and felt as though this show would be a chance (for me in my own way) to maybe participate and pay homage to those good times. Thinking back upon being the non-catholic in my circle of friends I can relate the character Abraham’s “fish out of water” feelings at times while being surrounded by my closest friends. I think we all can relate to those feelings. There are times when each and everyone of us feels like an outsider no matter who we are with. It is only when we ourselves are able to see the love and kindness that surrounds us from our friends, families and loved ones that we are able to truly be happy. That is what I believe the show Altar Boyz truly has to show us. The relationship between these five guys is not that of a group of band members or even of just friends, they are truly a family.

Cast

  • Matthew: Patrick Kim
  • Mark: Mickey DaGuiso
  • Luke: Rob White
  • Juan: Aaron Alexander
  • Abraham: Chase Maggiano
  • The Voice of God: Michael J. Elston

Band

  • Keyboard I/Conductor: Keith Tittermary
  • Keyboard II: John-Michael d’Haviland
  • Drums: Jim Hoffman
  • Guitar: Keith Adams

Crew

  • Producer: Richard Isaacs
  • Director and Choreographer: Patrick M. Doneghy
  • Stage Managers: Ashley Johnson, Jeff Stevenson
  • Technical Director: David M. Moretti
  • Scenic Painting and Design: Preston Dean, Hector Lorenzini
  • Master Carpenter: Hector Lorenzini
  • Costume Design: Larrisa Norris
  • Lighting Design: Jeffrey S. Auerbach
  • Sound Design: Kevine DeMine
  • Properties Design: Richard Isaacs
  • Makeup and Hair Design: Larissa Norris
  • Special Effects Design: Patrick M. Doneghy, David M. Moretti, Phil Natalini
  • Multimedia Design/Operator: Phil Natalini
  • Videographer/Editor: Angelo Mike
  • Stage/Tech Crew: Julie Cameron, David Gonzalez, Larissa Norris, Susan Schulman, Aalla Siddig, Dan Zurowski
  • Set Construction and Painting Crew: Dylan Conrad, David Gonzalez, Richard Isaacs, Larissa Norris, David Vecera
  • Load In/Tech Crews: Helen Bard-Sobola, Dylan Conrad, Kevin DeMine, Omer Fancy, Chris Gerard, David Gonzalez, Robert King, Malcolm Lee, Spencer Lepler, Angelo Mike, Phil Natalini, Matthew Randall, Joe Washcheck, Reggie Waters
  • Auditions: Bill Parker
  • Marketing/Social Media/Blog Team: Spencer Lepler, Angelo Mike, Larissa Norris
  • Press/Archival Photography: Claire O’Brien/Studio 1019
  • Program: Dave Moretti

Disclaimer: Dominion Stage provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/5675.

lives in Arlington with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren. Before retiring last year at age 70, he was theater critic at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for 27 years. Prior to that, he reviewed plays for the Philadelphia Bulletin, the Texas Observer and the Swarthmore College Phoenix. Non-reviewing journalistic jobs include writing for the Houston Chronicle, the San Juan (Puerto Rico) Star and El Mundo de San Juan. Think about it: most of the papers he worked for no longer exist. Maybe this internet gig has better longevity prospects.

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