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Review: Pittsburgh CLO's Energetic 'Altar Boyz' supplies good time

| Monday, Oct. 5, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
Pittsburgh CLO
Performers in Pittsburgh CLO's 'Altar Boyz'
Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera
The 'Altar Boyz' are (from left) Javier Manente, Mason Alexander Park, Michael James, Carter Ellis and Michael Greer.

There's no denying that “Altar Boyz,” is a silly piece of musical fluff.

But it's so polished, entertaining and neatly performed you may not care.

Its slim premise, explained at the top of the show, is that the “Altar Boyz” are a quintet of highly devout young men visiting Pittsburgh on the final night of their cross-country tour to raise spirits and praise the Lord.

To aid them in their mission, they are accompanied by a Soul Sensor, which takes the emotional and devotional pulse of the room to determine how many souls need uplifting.

Committed Catholics Matthew, Mark, Luke and Juan are joined by Abraham, who is Jewish, as they sing songs that explain how they met and formed the group. They work their evangelistic way through rock, pop and rap songs, including “Something About You (Makes Me Want to Wait), “The Miracle Song” and “Jesus Called Me on My Cell Phone.”

Yes, it's gently satirical in nature. Their naïve zeal takes the show over the top and into the world of double meanings. And, yes, if you really worked at it, you might be able to take offense.

Their energy is boundless, their optimism almost limitless.

During the 90-minute, intermissionless show, none of the five leaves the stage for longer than two or three minutes.

A trio of musicians accompanies them: keyboardist and associate music director Robert Neumeyer; keyboardist Catie Brown and drummer RJ Heid.

The entire cast contributes nicely blended voices and executes a staggering amount of well-executed choreography for such a small show and stage.

Each actor creates a well-defined, instantly recognizable character: Michael Greer's Luke is the tough, dumb one; Javier Manente's Juan is the Latino; Mason Alexander Park's Mark is the sensitive one; Carter Ellis' Abraham is the Jewish one and Michael James is the cute one.

They all know how to generate laughs while maintaining the reality of their world.

Watching them work together in solos, in one-on-one exchanges and as an ensemble is pure delight.

Interestingly enough, all five are students or graduates of Point Park University's musical-theater program.

Though I can't say that the show lifted my soul, the excellence of the cast certainly did renew my belief in the future of musical comedy.

“Altar Boyz,” produced by the CLO Cabaret, continues through Dec. 20 at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays and 1 p.m. Oct. 29, Nov. 19 and Dec. 17 at the Cabaret at Theater Square, 655 Penn Ave., Downtown. Admission: $34.75-$39.75. Details: 412-456-6666 or CLOCabaret.com

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808, acarter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @ATCarter_Trib.

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