Altar Boyz
@ Raleigh Little Theatre
Through Oct. 25

Altar Boyz has quite a reputation Off-Broadway. A few years ago, I interviewed a former actor from the show who fondly recalled the loyalty of the “Altarholics” who’d seen the show dozens of times. The production at the Raleigh Little Theatre, which runs through Oct. 25, shows whyit’s one of the rare satires that appeals to both fans and opponents of what it’s satirizing.

There isn’t much plot to Boyz, which unfolds as a series of musical numbers based around a concert from a Christian-themed boy band from Ohio. Replete with the usual trappings of synchronized dance moves, headsets and crooning at a selected audience member, the Boyz bray out such numbers as the toe-tapping “God Put the Rhythm in Me” and “Soul Sensor DX-12,” which shows how many troubled souls they’ve managed to uplift through song.

The show takes a few swipes at organized religion (“Epiphany” is a clever play on gay tolerance), but for the most part, the show’s satirical target is the co-opting of religious themes into popular music. Sure, the Boyz include a Jew and a closeted gay, and the Latino “Juan” doesn’t quite fit into their Apostle-themed name scheme, but their beliefs remain sincere throughout the show. It’s just that their attempts to put these beliefs in the context of modern music results in lines like “Jesus called me on my cell phone.”

Is it possible for a show to be ironic and unironic at the same time? Altar Boyz is pure silliness from start to finish, but it’s silly in a way that’s smart. True believers can laugh with the characters’ attempts to keep the faith through synchronized bumping and grinding, while more cynical audience members can laugh at their overzealous antics. The original Altar Boyz is one of Off-Broadway’s biggest hitsand this local production threatens to bring its cult following to the Triangle as well.

Saints be praised.