All About the Boyz
The Broadway smash hit Altar Boyz comes to Adelaide in the 2013 Fringe. Excited director David Gauci spoke to Peter Burdon.
“Altar Boyz has had a funny history,” says David Gauci, “It opened in 2005 in the States and transferred to Broadway where it ran for nearly five years. They put an Australian production together a few years ago, but it didn’t take off with anything like the same excitement as it did in the US. When I saw Altar Boyz in Melbourne, I thought straight away that there were things about it that could be done differently, and I’ve been thinking about it for ages, so when the opportunity came up to put on a production in Adelaide, I jumped at the chance.”
The publicity shots for Altar Boyz are certainly diverting, a quintet of handsome young things in the classic boy band mould. “But it’s actually about much more than that,” David says, “The Altar Boyz are a Christian boy band from Ohio; it gets the boots into boy bands on the one hand and the popularity of Christian-themed music in America on the other. It says a lot about how absurd it is to use music as a tool to drag people into religion. And it’s about how imperfect everyone is, that for all the shine on stage these are five young guys who are being put in an impossible position and slowly degenerate as the show goes on.”
“That sounds a bit serious,” he says with a chuckle, “but don’t get me wrong, this is satire in the true sense of the word. It’s great fun – it’s like being at a concert, it’s supposed to be the final performance in the Raise the Praise tour – I love that title – and it’s got all the energy and push of a really well-structured concert. The songs are all just right, but you have to listen to the lyrics, which are really funny and would certainly upset those evangelists in Rundle Mall! It makes you realise that you have to brave those placards they hold because they’re definitely on the wrong path.”
So how do you go about finding a convincing boy band in Adelaide? “I’ve actually worked with or seen all the boys in shows around Adelaide,” David explains, “so that was a good start. But I also knew what I was looking for. I wanted people I knew could sing and act. And I wanted diverse personalities. I specifically didn’t look for dancers, because I felt that so long as they had the singing and acting chops, the challenge of the dance would be the key to putting a really good show together. And that’s exactly how it’s turned out. We’re still a month out and they’ve got all the routines learned. And the choreography is fantastic, all original, I didn’t want to copy the other stage shows. It’s been the same with my approach to the production.”
It’s the characters in Altar Boyz that make the show so interesting. “The boy band is a formula, after all,” David reminds us, “and in America, you’ve got to have the leader, the bad boy, the Latino, the slightly fem one, and the one whose name you can never quite remember! And they’re all perfect, of course. I love what Robin Williams said about boy bands, ‘not a body to be found in nature’! The script is clever and gives latitude for the characters to be quite dynamic. A lot of it’s about them as individuals, but you also see moments of really raw emotion, and you become aware of the deals are done behind the backs of others.”
And of course, there’s the sexual ambiguity. “Absolutely,” says David, “I’ve said to the boys that they have to be limbo-sexual! It’s part of the boy band mystique, of course, you don’t know what they are! I really didn’t want the cast to be full of screamers, and it isn’t, but it’s a great bunch of guys. There’s diversity within the group, which is what it’s all about. And the show makes a good point about the rightness of equality, and I’m pretty happy if I can be part of spreading the word.”
So get on your party clothes and head off to the Star Theatre on Sir Donald Bradman Drive for Altar Boyz, 5-8 March. Book at Fringetix. And check out the web page, davineinterventionz.com.au which is good for a laugh.