Altar Boyz debuted in New York City as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival in September 2004. The NYMF cast included Cheyenne Jackson as Matthew, Tyler Maynard as Mark, Andy Karl as Luke, Ryan Duncan as Juan, and David Josefsberg as Abraham. Most of the original cast then opened the show Off-Broadway in 2005. One of the members of that original cast, Ryan Duncan, got his start in the DC theatre scene. Dominion Stage recently got a chance to chat with Ryan about his experiences in Altar Boyz. Check it out!
DS:Tell me about some of the DC area theatre you’ve done.
RD: I got my first professional job in the area at the Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre as it was in my town, Woodbridge. I then worked at the West End Dinner Theatre in MANY shows and I worked at Toby’s in Columbia once doing The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, which is where I met my best friend Tracie Thoms. (Tracie and I moved here together and lived together for years. We’re best friends and she was just here the other day). Before moving to NY, I did The Harvey Milk Show at the Source Theatre, in D.C., and Hair at Studio Theatre Secondstage which was one of my favorite theater experiences ever. I also did A Christmas Carol, 1776, and I’m Not Rappaport at Ford’s Theatre, and I did Side Show at Signature Theatre.
DS:How did you get involved with Altar Boyz?
RD: The casting director David Caparelliotis (who is a friend) recommended me to producer Robyn Goodman (she produces Avenue Q among others) and when I got back from the Ou ter Banks that July, I went in and booked in after ONE day. The main producer, Ken Davenport, called me the next morning. At that time, they were casting the New York Musical Theatre Festival version and using most of the guys from the original readings: Tyler, Cheyenne, and David but needed to find Juan and Luke. We were a huge hit at the NYMF and had producers in place so the last night they announced the transfer off-broadway. The rest is history.
DS:Had you ever been on a cast recording prior to Altar Boyz?
RD: I did a cast recording of a show called Look, Ma, I’m Dancin’! which was an archival type show revived by Musicals Tonight! I also recorded the demo for a new show called Believe.
DS:Tell us about your character, Juan.
RD: Juan, like the other boys in an innocent sweet guy. He was left at a church in Mexico and raised by nuns. I feel like he always had an inclination toward music and would watch and idolize Ricky Martin and Menudo which he emulates in performance. I think the orphanage had limited movie access and they probably watched movies from Spain which starred Antonio Banderas which is Juan gets his sizzle. Although he’s a virgin, he loves to play the ‘lady killer’ as his movie idol Antonio would do on the screen. I think his search for his parents during the show gives real gravitas to the character but as he finds out, the group IS his family as his real family is no longer with us. I think Juan really gets into the brotherhood of the group and the boyz are always in support of his quest.
DS:You said that many of the lines and ideas were actually input given by the actors. Tell us about the collaborative process for the show.
RD: Well, we’d just put things into the scripted show rehearsals that each of our characters ‘would do’ or ‘say’ and many times they were approved. We all really supported each other as actors and would even set each other up for things we thought were funny. The way we’d sing something also became standard. Some of the riffs Abraham does on the album, I did in the NYMF and they were given to his character which was a ‘joke tension’ between us. I could suggest something and Kevin the book writer or Chris the choreographer would say “let’s try it”. Stafford, our director really wanted us all to create something special since they felt they found the right cast to create it. Use the good material coming from all around you.
DS: What’s your favorite memory of your time in the show?
RD: Coming up with some of the material is definitely something I’ll always take from the experience. Just being able to play in rehearsals and let each other find our characters and come up with great stuff but keep the team feel to it. One favorite moment was a promotional video we did of the show for the NYMF where we wandered around NYC as our characters and improved and were interviewed eating pizza. It was a blast. It was on Broadway.com I think.
DS: Do you have any advice for our Boyz?
RD: I would have to say to really really support each other up there. There is a propensity for an actor to glorify himself by thinking “I’m the fabulous ‘gay’ character”, or “the audience loves Luke” etc. but when you prop each other up and enjoy the brotherhood and sharing among each other on stage, the audience will love all of you and really love the journey of the show. The end has so much pathos because they’ve gotten to love the GROUP as a group and not individuals trying to grab the spotlight. They should be sad seeing you potentially break up. Don’t worry, everyone gets the chance to shine in the show.
Also, like in Forever Plaid, innocence is the key to the funny. Don’t play up any jokes but make them grounded and come from WHO you are. It’s the innocence that tells the story that you boys really are spreading the LOVE of God and the message of Christ through boy band music even though you are actors. The show doesn’t preach nor should it cut out any one in the audience. We had rabbis come, priests, and non-religious people and what they all should leave with is a sense of inclusion. EVERYBODY FITS and if you judge or ‘know too much’ about the comedy, it’ll leave room for the show to be flat or even offensive. It doesn’t make fun of God or faith as much as it makes fun of the innocence of a Christian boy band contrasting with the sexuality and ‘coolness’ of pop music and boy band culture. Remember, boy bands are cool in your world. Have a GREAT TIME!
DS:How has Altar Boyz affected your career?
RD: Altar Boyz really put the five of us on the map in the city. Because the show was so popular, SO many people came to see it so I’ve been referred to different jobs and even offered things based on my involvement with the show. Although, it took me a year for most of these things to pop since all of a sudden I was ‘foreign’ and people really thought I either spoke with an accent or could only be ‘smoldering Latin’ which tells you a little about how this business works. It’s a long story. lol People still remember me from that show including most all of the casting people in NY and L.A. when I go audition out there.
DS:What are you working on now? Any future projects we can watch for?
RD: My life the past couple years was doing Shrek on Broadway. It was a great time and hard job. I was Bricks, one of the pigs, and I understudied and went on quite a bit for Donkey. I was the only Donkey cover in Seattle before we came to Broadway so it was so stressful to keep up with the MAJOR changes my own role or track went through and on top of it, I had to learn the constant changes to Donkey and be ready WITHOUT understudy rehearsal. We only started those after we opened in December and I was on 2 weeks later the day of my FIRST understudy rehearsal. I was on that whole weekend of Jan 2-4. Good times.
Currently, I’m doing a new play written by Kenny Solms off Broadway called It Must Be Him. I am involved with a show called Liberty that is supposed to come off-broadway this winter but also involved with a few other projects. I write and perform with my sketch group called Honorable Mention.
Dominion Stage presents Altar Boys.
Book by Kevin Del Aguila
Music and Lyrics by Gary Adler & Michael Patrick Walker
Produced by Richard Isaacs , Directed & Choreographed by Patrick M. Doneghy, Music Direction by Keith Tittermary.
Altar Boyz is a musical comedy full of sharp parody, sinfully spectacular dancing, and irreverent humor about a fictitious Christian boy band. The show follows the five über-talented heartthrobs: Matthew (Patrick Kim), Mark (Mickey D DaGuiso), Luke (Rob White), Juan ( Aaron Alexander), and Abraham (Chase Maggiano) on the last night of their “Raise the Praise” tour. Throughout the show the boyz learn about brotherhood, facing tough decisions and how important they truly are to one another. With their angelic voices, sinfully spectacular dancing and a touching story, the Altar Boyz are destined to rock the masses of all denominations!
PERFORMANCE DATES: Friday, Oct. 01, Saturday, Oct. 02, Thursday, Oct. 07, Friday, Oct. 08, Saturday, Oct. 09, Sunday, Oct. 10, Thursday, Oct. 14, Friday, Oct. 15 and Saturday, Oct. 16
And Now Get Ready To Make Some Noise For The ALTAR BOYZ…