by Jairo Rodrigues
Altar Boyz, a musical satire produced by JCS Entertainment, ran at the Central Bank Auditorium from April 8-17 2016. The musical at best follows the final tour of five young men, Luke, Juan, Matthew, Mark and Abe who performs a variety of songs for their audience in attempt to inspire them to find God and aim for a life without sin. Their concert is some sort of a re-birth ceremony, with the use of spanking new technology via the “Soul Sensor DX-12” machine which calculates the sinners in the audience and tries to get that number down to zero. The entire concert (and musical) was to sing and perform till that zero is attained. Sounds like a fun plot, doesn’t it?
Altar Boyz really has no point to it, perhaps this is the reason it never made it to Broadway. While comedies, even satires can have lessons and points to them, Altar Boyz simply has no agenda – none, nada, zilch. No lessons on humility and Christ, no lessons against hypocrisy or exposing the Church as a business, nope… although some themes can be identified they were merely for comic and served no other purpose but to entertain. And entertained we were.
The Musical and the Production, the Cast and their Performance
Altar Boyz; while it seemingly mocks the Roman Catholic Church, is in no way anti-Christian. It shows off brotherhood, family, devotion and friendship even with the betrayal and hypocrisy behind the characters, their flaws and some anonymous confessions – the production went smoothly for nearly two hours (without any intermissions, why would there be? This musical had no climax, just enjoy the ride).
Those Boyz though: young, fresh, zestful but a bit shaky at first. In the opening number, actors Justin Zephyrine and Nicholas Subero who played ‘Juan’ and ‘Abe’ respectively just looked like they didn’t want to be on stage as the Boyz introduced themselves. I thought ‘God this is gonna be amateur night’ when I saw how uncomfortable they looked on stage, boy was I wrong! As the music kicked in their facial expressions changed, they grew confident; the dances, the stage bromance, the songs and of course the strengths of their fellow actors whipped them into shape by the end of the musical.
‘Luke’- the joker of the group, the drunk of course and not really taken seriously, was played really convincingly by Omar Jarra. Besides that I really do not know what more to say. Was Jarra a weak actor? Certainly not. Poor singer? Nope! Could he dance? Yes! But, perhaps it was the character that had no lasting impression.
As for ‘Mark’ – played by Kyle Richardson, I had a feeling he knew he was the star since the lights came on, at the end his character and himself proved to be the Diva of the show, you go boy!. Richardson’s commitment to his role was superb, full dedication and quite frankly the audience enjoyed his performance, it wasn’t just his character. It simply wasn’t. Richardson shone.
Mark’s love interest (oops, I said too much?) ‘Matthew’ who was portrayed by Kearn Samuel, was more than just the leader of this Boy band, he was indeed the pillar which they all stood, I believe it was Samuel’s strengths as a performer that trumped any weaknesses of the others and by the end of the play eliminated any shakiness left. Samuel’s strength in his role and his performance really brought the group together; he held Jarra and inspired Subero.
At the end it was Subero that proved to be the most outstanding in the musical, as for performance he was the most improved. His songs, his commitment to the role… he fit well in his shoes as the outsider that became the leader, though he was not the pillar of strength he was the one that stood up above them at the end.
Those fellas can sing! I mean, my God! They can pull some notes. Together they are amazing but in their solos they took the crowd, held them and made them fall in love with their voices. As mentioned above it was the music that snapped some of the actors into their characters. Music is a powerful tool but overdone it is literally used for torturing people, the Altar Boyz made the music irresistible till it turned irritable as a musical. While some songs had my feet tapping, after a while others just make you want to rip your ears out. Coming down to the end I just wanted the music to stop. However, It was Mark’s “Coming out” song ‘I am a Catholic’ that made the endurance worth it.
Speaking of singing, can I get a Halleluiah for ‘The Angelz’!
Jeannine Jackson, Llettesha Sylvester, Khadaesha Worrell Sobers, and Nikia Coutou were hands down, phenomenal!
These four back-up singers (that amazingly became front dancers by the end of the show) blew me away from their introduction to the very end. At points, even as they were at the back of the Boyz for the entire musical I couldn’t stop looking at them or being amazed by their voices!
I am simply amazed by their talent which goes to show there are no small parts! That stern commitment to their role, even out of the spotlight they were in character, doing little facial expressions, body movements – knowing that the audience isn’t focused on you but sticking to why you’re on stage – brilliant! Just absolutely brilliant! God bless you ladies, and that dance! LOL! LOVED IT!
The style and clothing – on fleek, the choreography – sexy, the set – so, so; not amazing to blow you away but well done, dressed nicely and not cheap looking (that’s good considering where I’m from cardboards are sometimes used for walls).
Kudos to the light and sound technical teams, it is clear that a lot went into this production, overall the production was professionally done, JCS Entertainment brings top quality and professionalism to the forefront of Trinidadian theatre and this was more apparent by the usage of the live band ‘The Glory’
No seriously, can we have a moment to talk about that band though! I mean come on! From start to finish, almost continuously with brief pauses the The Glory gave a sterling performance!
Throughout the entire performance the audience was engaged, entertained and thrilled. Altar Boyz by the JCS Entertainment Company is resoundingly one of the best performances I have seen thus far; I can’t wait to see more. Kudos is extended to the Marketing and Public Relations teams and to the entire cast and production, a job well done.
About the author
Jairo Rodrigues | Perspectives Premier.
Jairo Rodrigues was a multi-award winning Entertainment Journalist in Guyana specialising in theatre and the performing arts, though he as since retired from the media to pursue consultative project management, he writes occasionally as a freelance journalist for Perspectives Premier, a theatre productions group he now operates under the Perspectives Company.
Rodrigues was in Port-of-Spain from April 8-11 2016 on business with the Trinidad and Tobago Performing Arts Network.