“Altar Boyz” at Lyric Theater

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“ALTAR BOYZ” Solidifies Lyric’s Position as Number 1 Entertainment Source in Oklahoma City

Billy Porter’s Boffo Direction of Over-the-top Regional Talents Continues Through the 29th

By Clif’ Warren

Sensational director/choreographer and all around New York talent, Billy Porter, who over the past few years has honed his talents on a wide range of major hit musicals—from “Grease” to “Dreamgirls,” to “Once on this Island”—and many others, unleashed “Altar Boyz” with the power of a tsunami at Lyric Plaza Theatre. Everyone is talking about the show and its over-the-top regional cast.

“Altar Boyz” solidifies Lyric, since Michael Baron’s artistic leadership, after only a year, as the No. I source for unerring entertainment in Oklahoma City. Not only are his own directorial choices supreme, his choices of in-coming shows and directors are equally so.

In only a few rehearsals Billy Porter soon had the five talented young dancer/singer/actors launched into his complicated and varied non-stop, high-energy choreography, so much so, the guys truly inhabit their boy band personas—Mathew, Mark, Luke, Juan, and Abraham.

Without smart training from their university departments and lots of onstage experience, there is no way these young performers could have risen to Porter’s standards and responded so exceptionally to the complicated dance routines.

As the five super-special dreamboats from Ohio on their last tour, the guys are set to test their spiritual steadfastness, as well as their loyalty to each other, their individual vulnerabilities, and even the depth of the audience’s beliefs. An ersa machine measures the palpability of the responses and offers the scores lighted up in large observable numbers, building up the suspense as the performers offer their routines.

The young men, of course, are modern representative versions of ethnic apostles, whom they satirize with saucy wit and panache. Two of the young performers, Skyler Adams as Mathew, and Jamie Goldman (Abraham) were trained at the University of Oklahoma, and two, James Michael Avance (Mark) and Desmond Dansby (Luke) at the University of Central Oklahoma.

Ross McCorkle (Juan), whom you’d bet on as a true Hispanic, because of his perfected accent and sinuous Latin dance technique, actually arrived at Wichita State University from Greenock, Scotland; there, he has performed in a wide variety of shows, including one in French and another in German.

The dozen sophisticated songs in “Altar Boyz, composed by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker, have roots in Christian doctrine and bear titles like “Church Rulez,” “The Calling,” “The Miracle Song,” “Body, Mind & Soul,” “Epiphany,” “Number 918,” and “I Believe,” and each song moves forward the slight story, by Kevin Del Aguila, with the performers having a chance to shine in the klieg lights spotlight their specialty. This musical score, obviously meant to be danced to and listened to, not remembered, comes across as funny and bright, but does not linger on the memory.

Adams provides the set up for the show as leader. Goldman shines as Abraham, the token Jew, who keeps the group grounded. Furthering the ethnic spin, Dansby gives his hilarious take on a black revival preacher on a whirl, and McCorkle offers his moves a la Ricky Martin, performing “La Vida Eternal.” Avance poses a gender identity problem and sells it well. Ultimately, the convivial embrace occurs in the chorus of “Everyone Fits.”

In no way could these young performers have responded so grandly to Porter’s complicated routines without smart training from their university departments and lots of onstage experience. Broadway would be lucky to have any of one the five.

The tight harmonies and sharp athletic moves that excited New York audiences for nearly five years, grabbing “Altar Boyz” the number nine spot for the longest Off-Broadway run in history, attain their synchronized perfection at Lyric, and this cast is the one you want to see.

Hurry, “Altar Boyz” closes on Saturday night, 29 October.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings and on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and a matinee on Saturday as well at 2 p.m. For tickets: ($40), go to <www. LyricTheatreOKC>, or go to the box office at 1717 NW 16th OKC, or simply call (405) 524-9312.

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