Oh, remember the good old days — the late 1980s and early '90s — when you couldn't turn on MTV without seeing five clean-cut guys crooning innocently about love or ripping through some fancy footwork? It was the giddy era of Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block, and that is the teen-dream universe that "Altar Boyz" spoofs with deadly — and deadly funny — accuracy.
Florida Theatrical Association's production of the off-Broadway hit musical doesn't reach heavenly heights, but it has many shining moments.
Director Steve MacKinnon has assembled five likable lads as Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan and Abraham (he's Jewish), who comprise a Christian boy band. So they sing goofily funny songs about Jesus calling them on their cell phones and the glories of abstinence.
The show is presented as the final concert on the Boyz' successful tour of Bingo halls and youth groups — and it comes with the good and bad of many a pop concert. Sound glitches in the early numbers on opening night left lyrics unintelligible, for one, though the latter part of the show sounded great (divine intervention?).
All to the good, though, is the brilliant choreography by Kim Ball that puts the guys through their paces with nostalgically cheesy yet somehow spellbinding moves straight from the 'N Sync playbook.
The five are a perfect parade of boy-band stereotypes: the pin-up front man, the one trying to sound streetwise, the one who must be gay (come on, there was always one.)
But despite the very funny and athletically impressive dancing, the show gets off to a slow start. It takes time to warm up to these guys, and early on the audience is laughing at them, not with them. The difference here is important.
But when the heartthrobs turn up the charm full blast and finally hit their stride, the Boyz win over the crowd.
Robert Johnston, as leader Matthew, has the best boy-band moves and poses. Brock Yurich makes an endearing dim bulb as Luke, who has been to a "rejuvenation center" for "exhaustion."
Brandon Allen Wood draws the biggest laughs as fey Mark, and Sheldon Gamabon milks an over-emphasized Spanish accent to great effect. Alexander DuBeau Browne's expressive face inspires the most empathy as the Jew who's not entirely sure he belongs in the band.
MacKinnon lets the guys cross the line from spoofing to clowning a few times: Mark's mincing ways and Juan's hysterical crying wear thin from overuse. And that strips away some of the show's sweetness.
But the guys' likability and their dancing — oh, that dancing — are this show's saving grace.
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•What: 'Altar Boyz'
•Length: 90 minutes, no intermission
•Where: The Abbey, 100 S. Eola Drive, Orlando
•When: Through Nov. 13
•Online: AbbeyOrlando.comCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times