If you’re not familiar with the film the musical is based on, it tells the tale of Melvin Ferd the third, one hell of a square who works in a health club. This square gets a quite justified dunking in a vat of toxic waste and becomes a green mutated monstrosity. In the tradition of every hackneyed superhero story, he then decides to fight crime. The film is of... well, debatable quality. You could probably go without seeing it in your lifetime and die happy.
You may now see why we were initially sceptical. Fortunately for the audience, the skilled folk at the Southwark Playhouse put on a fantastic show. Making the best possible use of limited resources (five actors are required to carry the whole thing), they use a couple of well-placed lights and smoke effects to reproduce the dystopia that is New Jersey.
With a cackling audience surrounding you, it’s hard to forget where you are. But they give it a good old bash - prepare for interactivity if you sit in any easily accessible rows. In a show like this, immersion doesn’t really matter. When they have to stop to explain why they seem to be stalling for time - because they are, in fact, stalling for time - you’ll laugh anyway. It also feels not as long as some musicals, which is a testament to its strong pacing.
A musical lives or dies based on its songs. No matter how charismatic the cast, or how great the set looks; it’s not the set that they want you to be singing on the way home. Thank god pretty much every song in this was a barnstormer. The audience applauded heavily after every song, and for good reason.
In short, it’s raunchy and fun as all hell. We may even go again; say hi if you see us. But be quick about it, it’s only on for another few weeks. Be sure to catch it while you can.
The Toxic Avenger musical runs until May 21st at Southwark Playhouse, London.