FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, NJ - The Altar Boyz opened at Villagers Theatre on Friday night and will run through Feb. 19 in Franklin Township.
The Altar Boyz is directed by Khy Garner and starrs Kevin Albanese (Matthew), LaJuan Miller (Mark), Phillip Solomon (Luke), Jose Arroyo (Juan), and Dan Keyser (Abraham).
"Altar Boyz is pure entertainment and a welcome distraction from the cares of the day," Villagers Theatre VP of Production Marie Fiorello said. "It is a musical comedy about a fictitious Christian boy-band with lots of harmony and high energy dancing. In their efforts to save souls, they teach themselves a valuable lesson about love and loyalty."
Garner the director hails from Woodbridge where he is a private vocal coach. Garner started his career with a production of "Hello Dolly" at Linden High School with a group called "The Linden Summer Playhouse." Garner thought about quitting theater in 2014 but decided not too after the loss of his brother to pancreatic cancer.
"It was cathartic for me to help him plan his funeral," Garner said. "Help him pick out the music, all of the things that I do in my normal life helping people put a show together to actually help someone do their last show. Was a big influence, he even told me "you have to keep going because now you living for 2 people" that made me decide I can't quit the business I have to keep going."
Marcus (Luke) will be one of the starrs of Altar Boyz, he is currently an English teacher during the day and in addition to performing in shows and working at dance studios in the area, he provides choreography for various upcoming dance competitions.
"If I could give advice to anyone who may be interested in theater, I would tell them to observe as much as possible, seeing performances that move audiences," Marcus said. "If they feel the need to evoke that emotion themselves, then a career in the performing arts is inevitable, regardless of experience level."
Marcus will be choreographing the Spring Musical at Matawan-Regional High School and competing as a bodybuilder while pursuing representation with a modeling agency.
Albanese will also be starring as "Matthew" and has been in community theater for a little more than 5 years. Last year he performed in The Pillowman at Union County Performing Arts Center. Albanese also said he felt fortunate to perform alongside Drew Lynch, the comedian who was the runner-up on America's Got Talent last year as well.
"I first heard about Altar Boyz about 10 years ago and has been my dream show ever since," Albanese said. " As soon as I found out Villagers was doing the show, I immediately started preparing for auditions."
Keyser will play "Abraham" and only acts as a hobby as he is a full-time high school English teacher. Keyser enjoys opening people's minds to dramatic and literary arts, whether it be on stage or in the classroom.
"I've always loved theater," Keyser said. "My parents played tapes of Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera in the car from the time I was a baby. Sweeney Todd got added to the roster once I left diapers behind. It wasn't until high school that it dawned on me that I could actually get involved, though, and I found my passion on stage."
Keyser earned his first lead as reverend Shaw Moore in Footloose and most recently played Jim Farrell at the Villagers Theatre in Titanic.
Arroyo will play "Juan" and was inspired to get into acting after seeing Cathy Rigby play Peter Pan on broadway when he was in kindergarten, he was "mesmerized and inspired."
Arroyo's biggest highlight of 2016 was having the opportunity to sing with Kean University's Broadway Babies alongside the "legendary" Patti Lupone.
When asked what advice he would give someone trying to get into acting Arroyo said "this is a difficult lifestyle to get into and maintain. If you want to pursue acting/entertainment make sure it's your passion. Make sure that you wake up and want to perform when you go to bed you dream of performing and when you are eating you are consuming a plate of your dream(s)!"
Miller will star as "Mark" and has been in theater since 2013 when he was cast in a production of Hair at his college. Altar Boyz is his seventh musical, and his most recent production was "In the Heights" at Kelsey Theatre in West Windsor.
"I found my way to theater through a love of singing," Miller said. In high school, I realized I loved singing and knew that when I went to college I wanted to do more of it. At Rutgers, I found the Livingston Theatre Company, which showed me musical theater was the outlet I had always desired. I've been madly obsessed and inspired by theater since."
Garner recently debuted an original play entitled Filling in the Blanks at Villagers Theater dealing with happenings of his life. Garner recently directed the New Jersey debut of the musical Floyd Collins at Hamilton Stage UPAC in Rahway. He can be seen on the panel as a judge for Fearless Icon, a musical theater competition for competing singers held by Fearless Productions. This summer he will be musically directing the big hit Hairspray for Mystic Vision Players a Linden-based theater company.
"If someone wanted to do what I do, I would tell them to study," Garner said. "That is so important, get all the knowledge you possibly can about that subject. Become and expert, because that is the only way someone is going to listen to you. You want to direct study the art of directing if you want to dance study the art of dancing."
Garner feels you will always come across people that have more experience than you would have, but if you study you can be prepared to present yourself in the best light.