Two hours after the show and I still couldn’t get the main song out of my head “We are the AltarBoyz” lalalalala… Every boy band that I have ever heard of sprung back into my mind throughout this show. With the energetic and cheesy choreography to the extremely camp and fun pop tunes, the five AltarBoyz, Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan and Abraham provide a one and a half hour show where their aim is to cleanse the audience from their sins with their holy songs.
Clint caught up with Andrew Koblar who plays Abraham in the show to find out what it’s like to be and AltarBoy.
Playing one of the five characters in AltarBoyz means you need to be able to sing, dance and act. Can you take us through the audition process that you went through to get the role of Abraham?
The audition process was a lengthy one. The creative’s on the show scoped out Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane looking for the five “boyz”. The auditionees were servin’ up “pimpin” licks and “fresh” dance moves while the panel mixed and matched different combinations that would best serve the piece. A dreamy one, a sensitive one, a latin one, a wild one and a Jewish one, which is the role I will be playing. Some of those things are in your control – like the dancing, singing and acting ability. Other things are not – your age, height, and look. I just focused on having a fun time “givin’ it”, I vaguely recall wearing an emo-style wig just for kicks!
I noticed when watching the show that most of the songs are sung while performing energetic dance routines. Tell us about how you prepared physically for this role? Is it true you ran on a treadmill and sung at the same time?
Altarboyz is probably the most challenging theatrical project I have been involved with, requiring all of us to sing and dance (and act) simultaneously. Sounds easy, but wait to you see the choreography! Not even Justin Timberlake sings an entire concert live whilst popping and locking! Of course all musical require the performers to be triple threats, but somehow we’ve managed to push the limits. In comparison to the other productions of Altarboyz around the world, our dance moves seem to be the most intricate. But we’re working through the sweat and dry throats to make it look easy. Each morning, we run through the hardest numbers in the show as a warm up. They are usually the ones that we are belting out high notes while sliding on our knees and jumping off the set!
Did you know much about AltarBoyz before you auditioned for the role? What drew you towards the role of Abraham?
I heard about Altarboyz four years ago when it first opened off Broadway (“off Broadway” meaning – that there are less than 499 seats in the theatre) A friend of mine came back from the states and said “there is a fantastic role in there for you!” So, I guess I have been keeping my finger on the pulse for quite some time. During that time I played another Jewish role in Topol’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof” which was a great stepping stone to this role, researching Jewish traditions and beliefs to portray a more honest performance.
You teach musical theatre throughout many schools in Sydney. Why do you think it’s important that dancers are across all three performance mediums?
I teach dance and Musical Theatre at six different Schools across Sydney, and my main objective being to introduce my students to have an intention for doing things. A reason to dance, a reason to sing. Even if it IS just to have fun. This method produces intelligent performers. I personally enjoy watching a performer who has thought about why they are doing what they are doing, or what the piece means, or what the choreographer or director is trying to say. I believe that nobody has to be “just a dancer” or “just a singer”. Believe me, it makes you a lot more employable if you can go to every audition the pops up!
So, in a fun, comfortable environment, we play with all the different aspects of the performing arts to improve the student as a versatile, entertaining and intelligent performer.
You write your own material to teach your classes. What key elements make up a great musical theatre song?
In my vocal focused classes, we focus on a lot of visualisation exercises, getting the student in touch with their breath and making sounds. When performances are required, I’ll usually write I piece suited for the class. This makes the performance special for the audience as well as the students. A new piece that the students have dissected and understood to give an honest, true performance that the audience enjoys and believes. Everybody can already sing, dance and act (Some people are just more experienced and confident than others), I like to provide that appropriate piece that the students can create under my guidance.
As a writer, I tend to write from an audience member’s perspective. “What would I like to see happen next?”. Also as a choreographer, I write my music with choreography in mind, adding accents or beats that can be used visually in the staging process. But I think the key to a good musical theatre piece is having something to say and having something catchy that the audience will be humming as they walk out of the theatre.
Has any one person inspired you to become the performer you are today?
I grew up watching the tap show, Hot Shoe Shuffle on video, so to be a part of another award-winning male ensemble musical is a dream come true!
If you could perform in any musical which one would it be, which character would you play and why?
My latest obsession is the Broadway musical Spring Awakening, based on the play by Frühlings Erwachen. This new musical production infuses a brilliant play with grungy, rock music to tell the story. The entire cast being under the age of 24, I hope it hits our shores soon!
I’ve been very lucky to perform in a few of my favourite shows already. One of those being Urinetown – A musical with Lisa McCune and Rhonda Burchmore for Melbourne and Sydney Theatre Companies. That was another highly entertaining satirical comedy with tight harmonies. In terms of a dream show – I’ll probably write that one. I have a few ideas swimming around my head.
What do you want to be doing in 10 years time?
I have just completed a yoga teacher training course earlier this year which I have begun including in my classes. The yoga postures, when done correctly, incorporate a breath pattern which is beneficial for flexibility and strength. The yoga component in a performing arts class is also a fantastic tool to focus the minds of the students, sometimes even on an intention. We sometimes set personal goals for the class or the term which we talk about and share so the class is constantly improving and progressing.
I’ll continue teaching, performing and writing. Living creatively from a place of love – I’ll see where that takes me.
AltarBoyz is playing at the Seymour Centre in Sydney until 2 August before opening in Melbourne on 13 August. For more information on the show go to www.altarboyz.com.au or visit www.ticketmaster.com.au to book your tickets.