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Diversion Entertainment’s ALTAR BOYZ review by Brian Hay

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Brian HayDiversion Entertainment: ALTAR Boyz
November 5, 2021

Sensational ALTAR Boyz Will Make Your Day ROCK

by Brian Hay

This production starts out as a great time and then keeps getting better. The first few minutes have it a combination of dance, choreography, musical delivery, dazzling set and lighting and humour guaranteed to leave people breathless with amazement and laughter. The only question is whether it can be sustained. The people involved with Diversion Entertainment’s production of ‘ALTAR Boyz’  spent the next hour and a half not only answering that, but also showing it could be elevated to higher levels.

nov 8 alterThe first thing to say is it’s FUN-NEEE! Really, really funny. Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker’s musical treatment of Kevin Del Aguila’s book drives every point of his scathing overview home with a resounding thrust. Boy Bands along with the technology and the material underbelly that permeates peddling of gospel through mass media takes hits laced with innuendo and teasers that open to anything but what’s anticipated. The characters are deliciously over the top and everything is driven by a musical score with roots in pop, gospel, and even rap. On this stage even that last, much maligned genre, shows it can yield nuggets if crafted by good hands.

Pointing to the funniest performer in this show is like trying to find the best apple on a tree. Adam Hobbs’ hispanic ‘Juan’ was the focus of many side-splitting moments. His control of the accent used was remarkable and consistent through sung and spoken delivery. Devan Wales affectations for the effeminate ‘Mark’ were outrageous and the cherubic innocence he gave the character made them even funnier. Cian Poore’s bird-brained muscle man ‘Luke’ was a portrayal for the books. His handling of the uber-macho traits, physical and mental (with special emphasis on the “mental”) coming to the fore with all the wrong things at the wrong times was hilarious.

Shawn Chapman’s delivery of ‘Matthew’s’ lofty piety made him one of two key points of balance for the antics of Poore, Hobbs and Wales with his “calm” in the face of their hysteria invariably bringing them back to the ground. The other, was Brent Wilkinson’s thoughtful portrayal of the Jew ‘Abraham’ who remained unsure of his acceptance and struggled quietly with it. His “Hew” as Hobbs’ ‘Juan’ called him more than any other conveyed the message and need for acceptance, and without becoming preachy. Musically they were stellar. Their harmony singing was strong and often dazzling. Throughout the performance they demonstrated impressive range and power along while expending huge amounts of energy dancing through extremely complex routines.

The choreography by Jackie Burns and Kendra Whitlock was arduously demanding for the performers. Unlike most of the productions that employ large amounts of dancing this one placed the work for all but a single number on the shoulders of just the five principles. The need to have their characters’ physical idiosyncrasies displayed during ensemble sequences made the routines breathtakingly complex. At the end of the first two numbers the guys were breathless but still managed to deliver their dialogue with panache. It hit then that major stars lip-synch these things while the guys here are doing it naturally. It’s amazing to think about. Their fatigue after the opening bits never became a factor. They used breaks in the action to get needed rest and the superb conditioning achieved through months of grinding rehearsals provided the stamina they needed. The single number that used the ‘Sin Dancers’ (Jackie Burns, Liv Gogas, Meghan Storey, Chantelle Tanguay and Kendra Whitlock) was fabulous.

The work by Musical Director Sara Joy hit all the peaks now expected of her. With the stellar talents of keyboardist Valerie Schmidt, percussionists Tim Mellanby and Hassen Kabouche and guitarist Dan Martin on hand her ensemble sparked the work with a musical drive worthy of the finest concerts. Her assignments of specific vocal bits and the work she got from the participants was remarkable. She’s a fantastic talent and a great leader and one who’s name on a production should prompt audiences to take a look. The set, which consisted mainly of seating for the band and a gigantic cross in the middle, proved again that less is more. The layout gave the performers an abundance of work space while the lighting made the single prop monumental in scope. A single television screen off to one side became served as the soul meter and was a focal point for much of the humour. Brilliant lighting by Matt Leslie kept the production larger than life and a fair amount of time spent with performers moving around the seating area created plenty of interaction with the audience. Dan Tidball’s exceptional work with the sound insured the music and vocal stayed clear so that nothing would be missed.

Director John Leverre and Diversion Entertainment have outdone themselves. The production doesn’t drag for a moment and there’s so much outrageous humour delivered magnificently that it’s impossible to absorb it all. In truth, it’s likely a person could see all three performances and still be finding new things to laugh at and to think about. If there was a star rating used in these write ups this would be getting a “six” out “five”.

Fantastic stuff. And FUN-NEE!


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