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Loving Him

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Gary Adler, Michael Patrick Walker, and Kevin Del Aguila's cult musical Altar Boyz is a soft-hearted sendup of boy bands, Christian pop, and ridiculously positive touring groups like Up With People and the Power Team, a group that teaches Christian stewardship through bodybuilding. The Altar Boyz are essentially the muscle-bound Power Team of tight, bubblegum harmony and even tighter pants. Only instead of saving souls for Christ by performing feats of strength and endurance, the Boyz drive out the devil with dope choreography, sexually confused testimony, and weird technological gadgets.

The setup: The Boyz have a futuristic gizmo that measures sinfulness, and they can't stop popping and locking until every person in the theater has been washed in the blood of the lamb. The physically demanding script is an intimate showcase for actors who have to convincingly talk the talk and moon the walk.

The band's core is named for the four evangelists: Matthew, a dudely Timberlake clone; Mark, a sexually ambiguous answer to Lance Bass right down to his advanced interest in space travel; Luke, a loveable screwup who just got out of rehab; and Juan, a border-town John with some funk in his trunk. To make things absurdly multicultural, the fifth singer is Abraham, a one-man Beastie Boys who's proud of his yarmulke.

Even if boy bands aren't your thing, Altar Boyz has some Halloween-weekend appeal too. Who can resist a rock anthem about exorcism called "The Power of Christ Compels You"? Director Cecelia Wingate sums things up in a soundbite: "Young, hot Catholic boys in skinny jeans busting out some serious boy band moves ... Church never had it this good."

"Altar Boyz" is on Theatre Memphis' Next Stage November 2-18. $28. 682-8323

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