This week, Duke Energy should consider an alternate power source for its namesake performing arts center. N.C. Theatre’s production of the musical, “Altar Boyz,” jolts the center’s Fletcher Opera Theater with megawatt performances, keeping the audience wired for 90 electrifying minutes.
If potential ticket buyers are unsure about the show, here’s clarification: Yes, it’s about a Christian boy band, but it’s not geared to the preteen set, it’s not a concert and it’s not strictly religious.
In fact, what music and lyric writers Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker, along with scriptwriter Kevin Del Aguila, have managed is the nearly impossible. The show spoofs showbiz soul saving, offers mildly naughty jokes about temptations, and makes loving fun of certain religious practices, all without disrespect or unkind intent.
The show takes the form of the last concert in the Altar Boyz’s “Raise the Praise” tour, the five guys hoping for a lucrative recording contract. The first few numbers are perkily pious, but soon each character’s personality and background begin to shape their songs and narrative, revealing cracks in both their faith and their commitment. The slight plot is just enough to accommodate the show’s dozen numbers and the talented cast members flesh out the characters in ways that make the audience care for their fates.
Marshal Kennedy Carolan uses his all-American looks and soaring voice to give lead singer Matthew star presence; Jeremy Woodard fully embodies the somewhat dim but talented rapper Luke; Patrick Ortiz puts Latin sizzle into Juan’s every note and step. As Abraham, the Jewish member included because he writes great lyrics, Tripp Hampton adds a soulful sense of the outsider. And as Mark, an outsider of a different sort, Patrick Elliott brings on many a giggle with his snappy sass.
Director and choreographer Carlos L. Encinias gets top marks for the nonstop dance moves the guys perform with unflagging exuberance and stamina, worth the price of admission. Conductor Jay Wright keeps the onstage band revved up throughout, while John Bartenstein’s glittery lighting adds to the excitement.
This production, along with N.C. Theatre’s recent “The Drowsy Chaperone,” puts the company at its highest level ever, a boon for area audiences seeking Broadway-quality performances right here at home.