Review – Altar Boyz, Broadway

Sunday 11 November 2007

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.

12 Responses to “Review – Altar Boyz, Broadway”

  1. Altar Boyz….is OK. It’s been running for years now, and has never actually managed to turn a profit, mostly due to its meh-ness and the high rent at New World Stages.

    And despite what Steve said over on the other post, do what you must to get tickets for Xanadu – it’s a total hoot, and far better than any of the recent West End offerings I’ve seen (Bad Girls? Desperately Seeking Susan? At least Xanadu is only 90 min. if you don’t like it)…

    Also make sure to hit Forbidden Broadway at some point.

  2. Whingers – I think you’ll enjoy “Xanadu,” which I firmly put in my guilty pleasure column.

    Given that you missed Chita in London, you may also want to head over to Feinstein’s at the Regency for her very intimate cabaret performance.

    Or, there’s the 75th anniversary of “Radio City Christmas Spectacular,” which as hokey as it sounds, is pretty impressive if only for Radio City itself and the Rockettes.

    Cheers – and welcome stateside!


  3. Gil Says:

    Welcome to New York… sorry you came at such a bitch of a time. Even more sorry you saw Altar Boyz….

    Have you considered Spelling Bee? It’s both Open and Pretty Funny. I don’t remember if it’s been/is going to London.

    As for the Off-Broadways…
    Jesus what a sad list…. I suppose I can’t convince you to see a very good Richard III having come all the way over from the land of Shakspeare, can I.

    Oh wait… have you guys seen Forbidden Broadway? Go see that. For some reason it doesn’t do well across the pond.

  4. The West End Whingers say thanks to the yanks for all their suggestions and commiserations.

    We’ll take your suggestions on board.

    Xanadu a must
    Will do Bee if we can get in
    Ditto Forbidden

    Think we may skip the Richard 3. Are there puppets involved?

  5. fred Says:

    hello whingers

    don’t bother with mauritius. it’s soggy pastiche mamet.

    spelling bee is fun

    why not try ‘1001’ by fellow blogger jason grote

    it’s a little too clever for its own good, perhaps, sometimes. but a lot of fun

    speech and debate at the roundabout might be interesting

    adam rapp writes crazy, messy plays – but there’s almost always something good in them, and he works with great actors. there’s a new one at the flea theatre.

    finally, if you’re coming through boston as well, there’s a fine production of david rabe’s streamers at the huntington theatre

  6. City Slicker Says:

    Hey guys,

    Sorry to hear about your luck. Ugh! But hope you are still managing to have a great time.

    Anything good on at Joe’s Public?

    Missing you back here in London. Looking forward to the Menier already.

    Love from the Big Smoke

    CS xx

  7. I rather enjoyed “Mauritius” – Alison Pill is worth the price of admission.

  8. Oh! Must remember to include this:

    Whatever you do. Whatever the girl handing out fliers at TKTS says…


    What you *SHOULD* do is go over to 9th avenue and get a muffin at Amy’s Breads and get dinner one night at Galaxy Diner (47th and 9th) – a number of actors who live in the area hang out there, and a good friend even spotted God…er…Sondheim himself stopping in for a coffee.

  9. Carol Duffy Says:

    Welcome stateside.

    Let me add my vote for Spelling Bee; lots of fun and worth it even if Broadway weren’t on strike.

  10. I’m in complete agreement with Rogue Zentradi on “Perfect Crime.” The only crime there is that they charge good money to make you sit through an awful show.

  11. Thanks all.

    Rogue Zentradi – thanks for the warning about Perfect Crime. We had been tempted but we will stay away.

    We’re seeing Forbidden Broadway tonight so will try the Galaxy Diner as you suggest. We had better see stars or else.

  12. Sue Says:

    Oh dear. I’m very sorry.

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