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The End of an Era


The official announcement will be made today that the Off Broadway production of Altar Boyz will close on Sunday January 10th, 2010 following the 7:30pm show. It will have played 16 previews and 2032 regular performances over a period of almost 5 years, making it the 9th longest running Off Broadway musical off all time – the 8th longest by my count, but that’s another story!

Every show eventually posts a closing notice – whether after 1 performance or after thousands. Altar Boyz is no exception and, right or wrong, its time has come. But being the first show I wrote that was professionally produced, Altar Boyz will always hold a special place in my heart.

The show was written and re-written over a period of years and, as with any show, we had our share of drama and difficulties along the way. Simply put, the show did not work for a long time. We had many readings, but every one of them was…well, let’s go with “problematic”.

Eventually, Gary Adler, Kevin Del Aguila and I hunkered down with our director, Stafford Arima, in my old apartment on 47th street and made a last-ditch effort to write a show that worked. We didn’t emerge from that studio apartment-sized cocoon with the finished script and score in our bruised and bloodied hands, but we did take several giant steps forward – in many ways the first real steps toward the creation of the musical that, for a little while longer at least, plays 8 times a week on west 50th street.

Writing Altar Boyz wasn’t easy – but I doubt writing a musical is ever easy. But, at a reading we did in late July 2004, for the very first time, the show actually worked! Lynne Shankel, our music director, always made the boyz sound great, but this time, the songs and script were working together and the characters came alive.

Barely a month later, when we began to rehearse for the NYMF production, Christopher Gattelli began to add the choreography and another crucial element to the show began to take shape. When the show was performed for, ultimately, 8 performances in September, 2004, the packed houses laughed, cheered and cried in a way we had dreamed, but never really dared to hope, they would.

Between the end of the NYMF run and the start of rehearsals for the Off Broadway production, we continued to rewrite the show – completely throwing out one song, making changes to others, and refining and tightening the book and the show as a whole.

Our long-time lead producers, Ken Davenport and Robyn Goodman, set countless wheels in motion while raising money and bringing other producing partners into the fold. We visited several theatres with them to find the right space for the show and plans were made at a furious pace.

Meanwhile our wonderful design team – including Natasha Katz (lighting), Anna Louizos (set), Simon Matthews (sound), Gail Brassard (costumes), Kathy Fabian (Props), and Doug Katsaros & Lynne Shankel (orchestrations) – worked tirelessly, with Stafford at the helm.

Cheyenne Jackson, who played the role of Matthew at the NYMF, had moved on to another project but our amazing new Matthew, Scott Porter, began rehearsals with us on Tuesday January 18, 2005. The rest of the NYMF cast – Ryan Duncan (Juan), David Josefsburg (Abraham), Andy Karl (Luke) and Tyler Maynard (Mark) – joined us on January 25th. Along the way, our two original swings (Daniel Torres and Kevin Kern) came into the mix and, before we knew it, we were in tech.Altar Boyz

Our first preview was on February 15th and, on March 1, 2005, six weeks to the day from our first rehearsal with Scott, Altar Boyz had its opening night Off Broadway. The many things that happened between that day and today are too numerous and varied to list. But it doesn’t really matter because that’s the part of the story you already know – that is the life of the show.

Many actors, musicians, stage managers, crew members and staff have made the show happen 8 times a week for the past 5 years, through good times and bad. Earlier, I mentioned our talented original cast. They were on stage when it all began, but have all moved on to other projects long ago. So when the last performance occurs in a few weeks, our wonderful final cast will be made up of Michael Kadin Craig (Matthew), Travis Nesbitt (Mark), Lee Markham (Luke), Mauricio Perez (Juan) and Ravi Roth (Abraham) with swings Mitch Dean and Tommaso Antico as well as Joey Khoury our long-time dance captain who will have just left the show.

I’m enormously proud of Altar Boyz and the amazing run it’s had, and I can’t ever fully explain all it has meant to me, all I have learned from it, and all that has changed both for me and in me because of it.

So I’ll simply end with one of the first lyrics I ever wrote for the show and one of the last lyrics that will be sung at the final performance:

Take a picture of me now
Take a look at who I am
Yesterday I wasn’t half as strong

Take a picture of us all
What we’ve been and what we are
Look at that and tell me I’m wrong

I Believe…

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