Three and a half stars
Phoenix Theatre; directed by Bryan Fonseca & Ricardo Melendez
I didn’t love this musical send-up of boy bands and Christian pop as much as I succumbed to it. Apparently, harmony, hip-hop and well-acted innocent enthusiasm have mystical powers. Neither deep nor challenging, the book by Kevin Del Aguila and music and lyrics by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker are continually clever. Ricardo Melendez’s choreography and the pop band accompaniment are flawless. On their fictitious Raise the Praise Tour, the Catholic Matthew, Mark, Luke and Juan, plus the Jewish Abraham, respond to a calling to “busta move” for God. In songs like “Church Rulez,” “La Vida Eternal” and “Something About You,” the boys rap, rumba and croon for the love of mass, the afterlife and abstinence. With easygoing irony, the five white-bread personas slip into black-born music, poses and slang. Just as easily, they sidestep issues like Jewish-Christian conversion and closeted homosexuality. A few gags will be offensive to either believers or secularists, and yet the puppy-like characters seem blameless and the performers admirable. Though a few notes go astray, the boys shake what God gave them with gusto. Standouts include Tommy Slivka as the swishy Mark; Eric Jakowczyk as cutie Luke, who’s been in rehab for “exhaustion”; and Ryan Stutz, well, just because I’m an “Abraham” girl. Through Oct. 21; 317-635-7529.