If this balls-out, fast-paced steam-train of a musical were a bottle of pop you’d have to bolt the lid on and bury it in concrete to stop it oozing over. We can’t think of another way to describe this off-the-wall, laugh-out-loud funny, sexy, crazy and non-stop night out. It fizzes around the stage. A big story of environmental damage in the Garden State of New Jersey set on a small but versatile stage at the Arts Theatre in the West End and packed – and we mean packed – with a chorus of characters performed by just 5 actors, this is a mighty impressive show.
Genre fans will be more than familiar with the story of The Toxic Avenger. Released in the golden year of 1982 by schlock legend Lloyd Kaufman on a cheap-as-chips budget and with little hope of making much of a splash, the ultimate underdog moved far beyond Tromaville and glooped up three sequels and a place in the splattermania hall of fame.
Leap forward 35 years and the musical comes off the back of a run at the Southwark Playhouse and a stint at the Edinburgh fringe, all under the guidance of director Benji Sperring who elevates the heart and the music to new heights with his energy and keen eye for satire.
Speaking of the music, it simply doesn’t stop. With book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro and music and lyrics by Bon Jovi mainstay David Bryan, it rocks from start to finish. We dare you not to be clapping along to “My Big French Boyfriend”, “Hot Toxic Love” or “All Men Are Freaks”. Sure, there’s more than a splash of Rocky Horror about the show (watch out for a Brad and Janet cameo) and the Jovi roots of the rock is clear, but one thing that’s not homage to anything else is the vibe, the fun and the humour. This show is flat out funny, and with an improv style that we’re certain makes for a different show every night.
The cast are superb. Mark Anderson as the unfortunate Melvin who gets dipped and turned into Toxie himself is excellent, the uber-nerd to the uncertain hero in a quick change so fast we weren’t sure it was even the same actor at first. Speaking of quick changes, Natalie Hope was unreal as the scorchingly hot Mayor and Melvin’s mother Ma Ferd. One scene in particular showcased her vocal skills, her acting (how she could be a 70 year old white-haired old lady AND a trouser-tighteningly hot red-head in the same scene….well, get a ticket and see for yourself) and her humour. Emma Salvo delighted as the blind Sarah, comedic timing with laser-precision and a voice to match, while Oscar Conlon-Morrey and Che Francis performed the rest of the cast of characters. These two truly elevate the show, playing too many characters to count and switching from one to another in seconds, all different in design and style and all nailing it. Not one character fell flat, and that’s a high bar to set.
There’s a really fine line between getting it right and veering too far to the left or right, but The Toxic Avenger - The Musical manages to steer the course between the ridiculous, the rocky, the raunchy and the raucous. If this isn’t winning awards and selling a boat-load of original cast recordings then there’s something wrong with the world.
Hang on….there’s PLENTY wrong with the world, so until we all go kaboom, go watch Toxie as he rescues his own corner of the world.
THE TOXIC AVENGER - THE MUSICAL / DIRECTOR: BENJI SPERRING / BOOK AND LYRICS: JOE DIPIETRO / MUSIC AND LYRICS: DAVID BRYAN / STARRING: MARK ANDERSON, NATALIE HOPE, EMMA SALVO, OSCAR CONLON-MORREY, CHE FRANCIS / RELEASE: SHOWING NOW