Chicago Theatre Review
Something About You
Altar Boyz – Theo Ubique
A blaze of synthesizer chords and electric guitar riffs accent the blinding shafts of light, preparing the audience for the celestial entrance of the all male quintet known as the Altar Boyz. When they finally take to the stage, having completed their task of serving meals and beverages to the packed crowd at the No Exit Cafe, audiences will soon know they’re in for evening of slick, stylized music and tongue-in-cheek humor.
Parodying the phenomenon of the boy band, such as N’Sync and One Direction, and crossed with the youthful Christian Rock movement, this show hits all the right notes. Featuring a toe-tapping score of pop rock songs by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker, with a book by Kevin Del Aguila, the slim storyline informs us that this is the last leg of the group’s successful road tour. Finding themselves in Rogers Park, and with the aid of their new Sony Soul Sensor DX-12, the Boyz strive to end on a high note, not only by entertaining and inspiring patrons, but by saving every single soul in the audience.
Throughout the 90-minute revue we get to know these five talented Boyz pretty well. Matthew is the group’s handsome spokesman. As their leader, Max DeTogne (“Bonnie and Clyde,” “High Fidelity”) brilliantly excels, nicely straddling the fine line between controlling authoritarian and innocent crusader. Frankie Leo Bennett (“In the Heights,” “The Wiz”) is boyishly adorable. He resists the temptation to play Mark as a stereotypical gay comic character. Instead he shows us a real young man, a sweet, creative kid quietly pining away with unrequited love. Ruggedly handsome Colin Schreier (“A New Brain,”) is Luke, the streetwise, tough boy of the group. Mr. Schreier brings a whole range of realism and energy to the role, busting all the right moves during his dance breaks and earning his much-deserved applause.
Marco Tzunux’s Juan (“Hair”) is a gentle spirit, a lover, full of soul and passion. Like Colin Schreier, this is only Marco’s second professional Chicagoland performance; but audiences know they’ll be seeing a lot more of these talented young men in the near future. Marco’s Julio Iglesias-like swagger, his swarthy Latin looks and the way he cradles a song with his voice makes all the ladies in the audience sit up and take notice. Steven Romero Schaeffer’s Abraham, the lone Jewish member of the group, stands out with his velvety vocals and his honest portrayal of an outsider welcomed into this caring fraternity of performers. Not only does this actor display polished finesse as a dancer and a fine singing voice, but he easily commands the stage with his good looks and charismatic presence.
Directed with an obvious love for this revue, Courtney Crouse has infused himself into his polished production. He’s focused his show on each of the Boyz’s unique personalities, while still making the musical numbers the real star. Gifted actor/singer/dancer Sawyer Smith has surpassed all expectations by creating some particularly slick, challenging and athletic choreography that both remains true to the boy band style while still satirizing it.
Multi Jeff Award-winner Jeremy Ramey once again guides his performers to perfection as musical director, harmonizing and blending them together like an angelic chorus. Songs like the infectious title tune, “Rhythm in Me,” “Everybody Fits,” “Something About You,” the hilarious “The Calling” and the beautiful finale, “I Believe,” are filled with warmth, motivational messages and hilarious double entendres. The cast is accompanied by the talented musical trio of Mr. Ramey, Perry Cowdery and Carlos Mendoza.
James Kolditz’s impressive lighting design captures all the excitement of a real rock concert. Abigail Reed has designed and constructed a stage setting that provides the Boyz with all the space they need to sing and dance their way to heaven. And costumer Kate Setzer Kamphausen provides some flashy, funky boy band outfits that bedazzle and befit this band of brothers.
This entertaining evening, while not exactly a holiday show, provides enough seasonal inspiration, spirituality and simple good heart to make it a perfect alternative for Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa entertainment. It’s also a very funny musical, with plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor, guaranteed to put a smile on every theatergoer’s face. Be sure to put this one on your holiday must-have list. It’s a gift guaranteed to please everyone.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented December 1-January 14 by Theo Ubique at the No Exit Cafe, 6970 N. Glenwood Ave., Chicago.
Tickets are available by calling 800-595-4849 or by going to www.theo-u.com.
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com.