save your soul

The Altar Boyz is a fictitious Catholic boy band on a mission to save souls with hot pop songs, glorious voices and killer choreography. They are Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan and Abraham. Matthew is the dreamboat leader of the group. Mark is the sensitive one. Luke is the street-wise B-boy who has a little trouble staying on the Path. Juan is the Latin hottie in search of his long-lost parents. And Abraham is Jewish. What's he doing in a Catholic boy band? God only knows.

They are fierce in their spiritual mission and, though there is much humor resulting from their naive fervor, they are utterly sincere and their message is all about the power of love, acceptance and true spiritual values.

Altar Boyz has been an off-Broadway hit since 2005 and won the 2005 Outer Circle Critics Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical. It was written by Kevin Del Aguila (co-conceived by Marc Kessler) with music and lyrics by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker. It's part play, part rock concert: a cross between N-Sync, Forever Plaid and Nunsense.

While it could be seen as a loving send-up of '90s boy bands such as N-Sync and Backstreet Boys, it is not satirical in its approach to religion. While a song like "The Calling" makes us laugh with its lyrics (Jesus called me on my cell-phone/ No roaming charges were incurred) it is a perfectly valid metaphor for a young man of the 21st century to explain his divine calling "to spread His glorious Word."

Other songs express sentiments like "everybody fits in God's great family" and "you've got to work on your soul." The music is features very choreographed uptempo numbers as well as pop ballads.

Altar Boyz is being directed and choreographed for Oregon Cabaret Theatre by artistic director Jim Giancarlo with musical direction by guest musical director Chris Kong. Set design is by Craig Hudson, costume design is by Kerri Lea Robbins, lighting design by Benjamin Brown and sound design by Tim Brown.

The cast members are all making their Cabaret debuts. "Matthew" is played by Philadelphia actor Damian Shembel, whose credits include shows at the Walnut Street Theatre and Bucks County Playhouse. Appearing as "Mark" (and assistant choreographer) is Jonathan Hoover and as "Luke" is Dolan Wolfe-Callanta. Both are graduates of the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Santa Maria, Calif. "Juan" is played by Daniel Plancarte, a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy with credits in regional theatre and national tours. In the role of "Abraham" is Josh Blye, a New York City actor who has performed in shows such as "A Chorus Line," "My Fair Lady" and "Damn Yankees." Musicians for the show are Chris Kong and Meagan Iverson on keyboards, Jim Malachi on drums and Matt Gwinup on guitar.

Altar Boyz opens on March 14 with low-priced previews on March 12 and 13. Performances are Thursday through Monday evenings at 8 p.m., as well as Sunday brunch matinees at — p.m.

Tickets are $19 to $31. Box office is at First and Hargadine in Ashland. Order by phone at 488-2902 after 11 a.m. or visit the Cabaret's Web site, , to order online.

$10 Student Rush tickets, subject to availability and student ID required, are sold a half hour before curtain.

Gourmet dinner and brunch are available with advance reservations. Appetizers, desserts and beverages are also available without reservations.

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