Based on the 1984 cult classic,
A fun, hilarious evening of top-tier talent and a foot-tapping clap-along score.
The story follows young Melvin Ferd, low on social skills but high on enthusiasm, as he attempts to rid his New Jersey town of toxic waste. His efforts are impeded somewhat when goons hired by the town’s corrupt mayor throw him into a vat of said waste, turning him into a mutant with super strength and not-so-super looks. Melvin struggles to come to terms with his new appearance, as he continues to battle the forces of evil and try to win the heart of Sarah, the blind librarian of his dreams.
The story is suitably ridiculous, helped along by a self-awareness of style that really sells The Toxic Avenger as the 80s-y schlock-fest that it is. The music does much to contribute to this distinctive comic tone, with songs such as Hot Toxic Love and All Men Are Freaks poking fun at tropes of musical theatre and the inanity of this particular musical’s premise. All this is elevated by stellar performances from the five-member cast, whose hilarious energy in constantly switching between roles is only matched by their jaw-dropping singing skill. With closed eyes, one could mistake this production for being on the West End or Broadway.
Other small details contribute to the play’s comic vibe: the way the two-tiered set (refreshingly high production value for the Fringe) wobbles ominously as characters run back and forth across it; the occasional low-hanging joke or fourth wall breaker, and the frequently questionable lyrical rhymes. These all help The Toxic Avenger feel like unserious, dopey-faced fun.
Though the environmentalist message that the play aims for could be a little clearer, and though this version of the play feels slightly abridged (how does the mayor know there’s a mutant roaming around her city in the first place, for example?), these little problems can’t do much to detract from a fun, hilarious evening of top-tier talent and a foot-tapping clap-along score.