January 10, 2020, marked a decade since the closing-night cast members of the Off-Broadway mega-hit Altar Boyz, who worked together for almost two years, took their final bows at New World Stages, ending the show’s five-year engagement of 2,032 regular performances and making it the ninth longest-running Off-Broadway musical of all time. To commemorate the tenth anniversary and “to spread a little virtual boy-band love,” stars Michael Kadin Craig (who played Matthew), Travis Nesbitt (Mark), Lee Markham (Luke), Mauricio Pérez (Juan), and Ravi Roth (Abraham) have reunited, along with composer/lyricist Gary Adler, as Altar Boyz II Men, for a new video of “The Calling” (“Jesus Called Me on My Cell Phone”) – one of the award-winning production’s signature songs.
Following up on Markham’s suggestion to do something to celebrate the ten-year milestone, Nesbitt (who has since gone on to become the founding member of The Boy Band Project and its popular Sunday cabaret concert the Boy Band Brunch) came up with the idea and took the lead in the creation and production of the video. All of the singers and Adler, who accompanies them on piano, shot their individual pieces from their homes around the country, then sent them to Nesbitt, who put them all together, with Craig mastering the final audio of the spot-on vocals and harmonies.
I asked the “Boyz” (seen below in their cast headshots from ca. 2010) to share a favorite memory from their closing run in Altar Boyz (with music and lyrics by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker and book by Kevin Del Aguila, based on an idea by Marc J. Kessler and Ken Davenport) and what made it such a special experience for them.
Ravi: “My favorite memory was my opening night. The house was sold out and all of the ‘Altarholics’ (the Altar Boyz superfans) came to support us. They came to every one of our openings from all over the world. It was the fans who really made this show a hit and they felt like family!”
Michael: “We had a moment in the show when we would bring a girl on stage to serenade her. So you can imagine the countless stories, from one woman who kept roaming the set and trying to get me to slow dance, to one who literally took off my belt and tried to undress me while I was singing! My favorite was whenever I could bring our ‘Altarholics’ on stage!”
Lee: “My favorite memory was on closing night, at the top of the show, when we hit our first pose with our heads down and slowly looked up at the audience. The whole theater was literally shaking from all the applause and cheering. I think it lasted like five minutes, before we could start the show.”
Travis: “It was an incredible theater fraternity to belong to; so many talented awesome guys had performed on that stage. Nobody left the stage for the entire 90-minute show, so being an ‘Altar Boy’ meant instant brotherhood. We didn’t get paid as much as the cast of Chicago next door, but we were the hardest working guys in town and we felt like stars.”
Mauricio: “Altar Boyz was my NYC acting debut. I have to say that along with all the crazy amazing memories the Boyz mentioned, getting the call that I booked the show was out of this world. I was performing in the Arvada Center production in Colorado at the time, after having done the Cincinnati and St. Louis productions with MKC [Michael Kadin Craig] and Ravi and the gang. Arvada Center was extremely kind and understanding. Walking through that backstage area for the very first time, knowing I was now officially part of that, was one of the biggest thrills of my life.”
Thanks to their new Boyz II Men reunion video, theater lovers, music fans, and ‘Altarholics’ alike can now have the big thrill of watching the stars of Altar Boyz together again, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the show that they – and we – all loved.
The Altar Boyz II Men video of “The Calling” is available for viewing here and on YouTube.