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Souled Out 

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Altar Boyz is a dramatic concert musical, part of a trend that has drifted far from the corn fields of Oklahoma. The play is a performance by a boy band determined to "raise the praise" and unburden the souls of the audience with the help of a mysterious device called the Soul Sensor DX-12. The electronic monitor displays the number of damned inside the theater. Saved or not, the audience clearly was moved to praise the show.

  The Fourfront Theater production was co-directed by Gary Rucker and Kelly Fouchi, who also choreographed it. The talented, limber cast of five (William Bryant, Brian Falgoust, P. J. McKinnie, James St. Juniors and Keith Claverie) were pedal to the metal for the entire 90 minutes, and it was a blast. A four-piece band under the musical direction of Jefferson Turner played the show's 12 songs. The concept worked because of full-throttle performances and the drama between the group's characters. The original production — with book by Kevin Del Aguila, music and lyrics by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker — won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical in 2004.

  "American consumers are demanding more God than ever before," says one of the Boyz at one point. That sentiment puts us a long way from Notre Dame and Gregorian chant. We're in hip-hop territory, with excursions into Rolling Stones strutting and rousing rhythm and blues. "Jesus called me on my cell phone," is typical of their inspirations.

  Of course, the Boyz face many temptations. Will they stay together as a group through thick and thin or sign lucrative individual recording contracts? These kinds of moral dilemmas could tear the harmonizers apart.

  The production closed at Southern Rep but will reopen for a run at Le Petit Theatre in May.


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