Pros: Features brilliant original music, energetic dance numbers and a phenomenal cast.
Cons: Far from high brow, this show is not for the easily offended.
The Toxic Avenger, based on the cult movie of the same name, tells the story of Melvin Ferd the Third, a geek from New Jersey who becomes the Garden State’s titular hero after being pushed into toxic waste by bullies. This is my second recent visit to the Arts Theatre and again I was struck by what a great atmosphere the theatre has for a down at heel looking venue.
One of my favourite things to do beside going to the theatre is watching terrible B movies, particularly cheesy horror movies, so on paper The Toxic Avenger musical was practically written for me. Luckily I wasn’t disappointed!
It probably goes without saying that The Toxic Avenger is unlikely to convert the dubious: true to its B movie roots, the musical is crass, over the top and very silly. Despite this, the musical is impressively well written and mostly succeeds in treading the fine line between being amusingly rude and obscene. The staging, comprising of several large toxic waste vats and the (boo hiss) Manhattan skyline, is also effective and well utilised by the cast.
Like other warped modern musicals Book of Mormon and Urinetown (which The Toxic Avenger acknowledges it bears a striking resemblance to), The Toxic Avenger works because, surface level crassness aside, the show has a good heart. With its surprisingly pro environment message and feel good vibe, it’s hard not to root for the characters.
The Toxic Avenger’s strength lies in its musical numbers which are both funny and ridiculously catchy, something I never thought I’d say about music written by a member of Bon Jovi (no offence Bon Jovi fans). The music ranges from cheesy arena rock to salsa to folk, and the cast delivers each number with obvious glee. The accompanying energetic dance routines are also a joy to watch.
The production is further elevated by the amazing, high octane performances of the five strong cast. Anderson and Salvo play the romantic leads as a hilariously twisted Beauty and Beast, while Hope, Francis and Conlon-Morrey do an amazing job doubling up in a head spinning number of roles.
The Toxic Avenger is an hilarious, well written musical which fans of Urinetown and Book of Mormon will lap up. While the show’s off colour jokes won’t be for everyone, it’s impossible to keep your toe from tapping along to the brilliant musical numbers. A show in desperate need of a longer West End transfer.
Author and Lyrics: Joe DiPietro
Music and Lyrics: David Bryan
Original Author: Lloyd Kaufman
Director: Benji Sperring
Producer: Katy Lipson for Aria Environment and Derek Nicol and Paul Walden for Flying Entertainment
Booking Until: 3 December 2017
Box Office: 020 7836 846
Booking Link: https://artstheatrewestend.co.uk/whats-on/the-toxic-avenger/