The Toxic Avenger
  • By Pete Shaw
  • |
  • 3rd Oct 2017
  • |
  • ★★★★★

The Toxic Avenger – The Musical doesn’t take itself seriously. Indeed, any attempt to take it seriously is entirely missing the point. Set in a putrid, foul-smelling waste dump (ie, New Jersey), this romp of politically incorrect madness is self-aware, self-depreciating and above all, unreservedly hysterical.

In a West End awash with jukebox musicals and safe bets, The Toxic Avenger is a welcome antidote to the predictable.

Mild-mannered Melvin Ferd the Third (Mark Anderson) is in love with blind librarian Sarah (Emma Salvo), but his quest to clean up hometown Tromaville uncovers potentially embarrassing documents for the town’s crooked Mayor (Natalie Hope), who instructs her heavies (Ché Francis & Oscar Conlon-Morrey) to deal with the problem. Cue hapless Melvin being tossed into a vat of chemical toxic goo and emerging as our mutant hero, Toxie.

Based (loosely) on Lloyd Kaufman’s 80s cult B-movie of the same name, Memphis author Joe DiPietro (Book & Lyrics) and Bon Jovi band member David Bryan (Music & Lyrics) have captured the tongue-in-cheek satire of the original film and given it the full musical treatment of slapstick silliness. Realising their most likely consumer will be audiences familiar with the musical genre, the entire show is littered with jibes at other shows (sorry Urinetown, but you probably deserved it). And like the bastard child of Rocky Horror and Little Shop, The Toxic Avenger knowingly satirises itself with quips about filling time for a quick change or a multi-rolled character who can’t be in the same room with herself.

Given such a limited run at the Arts, production values are remarkably high. The set is impressive and full of hidden surprises, where a hairdresser’s salon or full scale library appear from a sewage pipe. The sound design is spot on in clarity and evocative green-themed lighting highly effective. Benji Sperring’s direction is comically sharp, supported by Lucie Pankhurst’s apt choreography. And on top of this there’s a cast that really know how to deliver a both a gag and a number.

Anderson excels in the lead role of Toxie, with a gentle touch to his monster and melodic vocals that particularly shine in the song You Tore My Heart Out. Playing opposite, Salvo as schmaltzy sightless love interest Sarah shows her Newsrevue heritage with precise comic timing that never lets the running joke go stale. Natalie Hope impresses with the showstopper Bitch/Slut/Liar/Whore, but possibly the unexpected stand outs are Ché Francis and Oscar Conlon-Morrey who flip between riotous roles (and genders) so many times it’s easy to think they are the actual stars of the show.

In a West End awash with jukebox musicals and safe bets, The Toxic Avenger is a welcome antidote to the predictable.  

Reviews by Pete Shaw

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The Blurb

Following a sold-out UK premiere at Southwark Playhouse where it received 6 Off West End Award nominations including Best New Musical, cult rock musical The Toxic Avenger is transferring to the Arts Theatre for a strictly limited season.

From Joe DiPietro and David Bryan (original founding member and keyboardist/vocalist for Bon Jovi), the Tony Award-winning team behind the hit West End musical ‘Memphis’, this acclaimed rock musical dubbed “an intoxicating blast of fun” by The Daily Telegraph in their 5-star rave review and the Daily Express says ‘“To anyone that has seen the Book of Mormon, this is a must-see younger brother of a show!”

Toxie is a seven-foot mutant freak with superhuman strength and a supersized heart to match. He’s out to save New Jersey, end global warming, win the heart of the prettiest (blindest) librarian in town and get home in time for dinner in this toxic love story with an environmental twist.

Based on the 1984 cult classic, The Toxic Avenger tells the story of the citizens of Tromaville who are crying out for a hero. Enter Melvin Ferd the Third, an aspiring earth scientist determined to clean up the toxic waste problem. When a corrupt Mayor and her government goons get wind of his plans, they vow to stop this heroic feat, Melvin is tossed into a vat of toxic waste, and transformed into The Toxic Avenger, New Jersey’s first superhero!

Prepare to laugh, scream and sing as ‘Toxie’ rocks the house and saves the day