Now playing, 'Altar Boyz' takes the stage in Havre de Grace

The Aegis
Musical comedy 'Altar Boys' aims to cleanse the soul

Tidewater Players, the community theatre of Havre de Grace, brightens the mid-winter mindset with its production of "Altar Boyz," the one-act musical comedy, a spoof of boy bands, that stars five lads – Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan… and Abraham.

The last stop of their "Raise the Praise 2015" tour is Havre de Grace, where they will perform their unique blend of fresh rock and pop music. Book is by Kevin Del Aguila, with music and lyrics by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker.

Director and Tidewater Players President Laurie Starkey is a big fan of the show. Shortly after it opened Off Broadway in 2005, she went to see it because a friend was in the cast. "Boyz" won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off Broadway Musical and continued for 10 years, making it the ninth longest-running Off Broadway musical ever.

"I wound up seeing it nine times in New York, a community theater production, a high school production and twice on tour – that's how much I love this show," she said.

"I had to wait to do it here until I could find five young guys who are good-looking and who could sing, dance and act," she continued.

Not only has she assembled such a cast, but the show boasts props from the Off Broadway production.

"Altar Boyz" runs upstairs at Tidewater Players in the historic Opera House, 121 N. Union Ave. in Havre de Grace for six performances: Feb. 13, 14, 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 15 and 22 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults and $13 for those 12 and under. Visit http://www.tidewaterplayers.com to reserve seats.

Joshua Starkey, 16, a junior at Aberdeen High School, plays Matthew.

"He's sort of the leader of the group," he said. "He brought the five guys together."

Brett Messiora plays Mark, described as "the sensitive one." Ironically, at 25 he's the oldest member of the cast, but his character is the youngest in the band.

Austin Barnes, 19, of Havre de Grace, plays Luke, described as "the bad boy" of the group.

Brady Fritz, 17, a senior at John Carroll, plays Juan, aka the "Latin lover."

"Juan is an orphan who was raised by nuns," he said. "Altar Boyz has kind of become his family."

Emil Brandau, 17, a senior at Edgewood High School, plays Abraham. As the only Jewish member of the Christian boys' band, he feels a bit out of place. But he writes the lyrics to Matthew's melodies, so he's included.

Tyler Daniel of WXCY-FM makes pre-show announcements and produces the Voice of G.O.D. Arrive early to get in on the fun. Also before the show, audience members will be encouraged to fill out personal confession cards to deposit in the confessional box.

Austin Barnes explained the goal of the Altar Boyz.

"We're here to cleanse the souls of everyone in the audience," he said.

Their progress will be measured by an onstage machine called Soul Sensor DX-12. Can the Boyz get the number of sin-stained souls down to zero before the curtain comes down? And – perish the thought! – might the boys have issues of their own to settle?

Musical director Stephanie Carlock Cvach, technical director Todd Starkey (Laurie's husband), choreographer Elise Starkey (Laurie's daughter) and stage managers Janet and Carrie Dill combine their talents to bring this lively and light-hearted show to the Tidewater stage. Live musical backup is provided by Stephanie Carlock Cvach and Mike Bareham playing keyboard, Christie Macdonald playing guitar and Mark Leep, drums.

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