The Whingers went Off-Broadway last night.
Forced by the Broadway strike to choose from a very limited selection and fresh (in Phil’s case) and not so fresh (in Andrew’s) off the plane and unable to get into Xanadu (sold out – presumably from the knock on effect of so many shows being closed) they opted for the highly recommended (you know who you are, Sue) Altar Boyz.
They grabbed the very last two seats available – in the back row behind the sound desk (but at the same price as seats from which you could see). After a lengthy description from the box office staff who assured us that the Whingers would “get used to it after a while” (the poor man clearly had no idea who he was talking to) they took our seats at the New World Stages (which incidentally is a marvellous concept – a massive theatre multiplex on West 50th Street featuring no fewer than five superbly-raked auditoriums and a bar and an ATM).
Now, when the Whingers say they took their seats, what they actually mean is that they perched on the two very tall stools specially placed to afford them a view over the sound desk of the stage (just). Andrew hadn’t sat on such a high chair since his spoon-feeding days although Phil – in his advancing years – is back to being spoon-fed again and was quite happy.As an announcer intoned the words “Altar Boyz will be dropping the funk in 12 minutes” Andrew’s face fell. No amount of his usual masking tape face-lift could have prevented it. The Whingers can get in a funk sometimes but they certainly don’t want to watch it.
The Whingers have to admit that we are reluctant to tell you what it was about because any description would make it sound better than it actually was. But here goes. The Altar Boyz is a spoof Christian boy band – Matt, Mark, Luke, Juan and Abraham (who is actually Jewish) – and the show you are watching is ostensibly the last one on their Raise The Praise tour. It features numbers such as “Church Rulez” and “Epiphany” and “Jesus Called Me On My Cellphone”.
It was very enthusiastically received by the audience who laughed wholeheartedly while the Whingers
sat perched in stone cold silence, occasionally glancing at each other to check that the other wasn’t actually enjoying it and raising eyebrows at each other to indicate silent questions – mainly “Why are these people laughing?”
Maybe it was jet lag? Possibly, it had been a 20 hour day so far, but the problem was that we didn’t understand what we were supposed to be watching. It was spoof, but who or what was it spoofing? Was it pro-Christianity or anti-Christianity? Of was it neutral? In which case, why spoof it?
The Whingers spent most of the time poking each other to keep them awake as falling from the dizzyingly high stools onto the sound desk could have had tragic consequences.
The singing was quite good and the energy levels appropriately high, but the Whingers never managed to figure out what it was they were watching or why. It seems to be one of those shows with an uncritical young New York audience (c.f. Rent, Wicked, Avenue Q and other crimes against musical theatre) worship it but probably can’t articulate why beyond it being “awesome” or “cool”.
One of the cast had the good humour at the end to thank the audience for coming “although I realise some of you didn’t have any choice” (this being the first day of the Broadway stage hands strike) and it kind of summed it up really.
This was only Day 1 of the Whingers’ Hype The Gripe tour but already they are feeling very off Off-Broadway.