September 23, 2010

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City boys, small-town boys
Actors briefly alter lives for Altar Boyz
Adam Coughlin acoughlin@hippopress.com.

Altar Boyz, which premieres at the Palace Theatre on Friday, Sept. 24, is a musical comedy about five small-town boys — Luke, Mathew, Mark, Juan and Abraham — who decide the best way to save the world is to form a boy band and sing songs like “You Make Me Want to Wait.” But unlike their fictional counterparts, the actors in the musical come from a very big city and want to improve your theater experience by sharing life behind the scenes.

For five years and 2,032 performances Altar Boyz, an 80-minute high-octane musical, rocked off-Broadway audiences. There have been several national tours and even an international tour. But the cast coming to Manchester isn’t on a tour. They were specifically chosen for the Palace performance.

Two to three times a year, Artistic Director Carl Rajotte and other members of the Palace head to New York City to audition about 300 actors, each time looking for talent for future performances. Rajotte said the Altar Boyz cast members were chosen last spring and were told about their roles a month or so later.

Rajotte said he goes to New York because the talent pool is so deep and because the actors need to work eight hour days during the week leading up to the performance. The cast for Altar Boyz only arrived in Manchester with six days to learn the entire show.

“People always ask me, ‘How can they learn their lines in that short a time?’” Rajotte said. “It is their job, so they’re used to it.”

Rajotte said they chose Altar Boyz because the Palace traditionally does a small-cast musical to kick off the season. He said the five main actors in Altar Boyz — Anton Fero (Luke), DJ Bucciarelli (Mark), Joshua David (Matthew), Roberto Araujo (Juan), Nathan Meyer (Abraham) — are all getting along and forming their own sort of off-stage boy band. The guys all live together while they’re in Manchester.

While this arrangement — a group of New York actors living together while performing as a Christian boy band — certainly seems tailored for reality television, there will be no cameras. But there will be blogs. The actors will be blogging daily about their time together, life in Manchester (Araujo already rode a Segway), and meals at local restaurants like Consuelo’s Taqueria. These blogs, called “The Confessional,” can be found at www.palacetheatrenh.wordpress.com.

“My goal is to share with the Manchester audience the behind-the-scenes,” Rajotte said. “I think this will make them appreciate art even more.”

Rajotte knows the audience will appreciate the tongue-in-cheek humor of the play, which is witty without being vulgar. When he saw the show years ago in New York what surprised him most was that despite the funny songs and great dancing there was actually a strong narrative. Along with the story, Rajotte said, there is great character development.

“All of the characters are so different,” Rajotte said. “Everyone will be able to relate to at least one of the characters. They are like everybody’s little brother.”

Rajotte looked for these personalities at the audition in New York and was also searching out actors who would work well together. Rajotte believes he found them. Read their blogs to find out.


Altar Boyz
Where: Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester
When: Friday, Sept. 24, Saturday, Sept. 25, Friday, Oct. 1, Saturday, Oct. 2, Friday, Oct. 8, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 9, at 2 and 7:30 p.m. and Sundays, Sept. 26 and Oct. 3, at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $15 to $45, www.palacetheatre.org, 668-5588.

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