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The Toxic Avenger

  • Theatre, Musicals
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. © Claire Bilyard
    © Claire Bilyard
  2. © Claire Bilyard
    © Claire Bilyard
  3. © Claire Bilyard
    © Claire Bilyard
  4. © Claire Bilyard
    © Claire Bilyard
  5. © Claire Bilyard
    © Claire Bilyard
  6. © Claire Bilyard
    © Claire Bilyard
  7. © Claire Bilyard
    © Claire Bilyard
  8. © Claire Bilyard
    © Claire Bilyard
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Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Joyously lurid rock'n'roll comedy musical based on the cult film of the same name

Glowing like a vat of nuclear run-off and spewing sophomoric raunch across the stage, the European premiere of ‘The Toxic Avenger’ is pretty much everything you hoped (or feared) it might be.

Adapted for an off-Broadway stage by Joe DiPietro and David Bryan from Lloyd Kaufman’s classic 1984 horror film, the 2008 musical takes deformed hero Toxie and dips him in a tank of pure ‘Phantom of the Opera’. The resulting mutation is longer on laughs than its splatter-movie original, and with a real beating heart at the centre of its go-green, freak power hide.

Melvin Ferd the Third is the nerd who finds himself transformed into a gloopy, hunky superhero after he takes a bath in a barrel of glowing ooze. It gives him the guts to take on Tromaville’s dastardly, solution-happy Mayor, and the (ahem) tackle to tackle man-eating, blind librarian Sarah. From there to absurdity, it’s a classic love story painted in radioactive neons, with a booming score that swipes snatches of gospel and country to augment its power-ballad base.

Aria Entertainment meld its typically sky-high production values with the team behind last year’s stunning ‘Shock Treatment’ stage premiere, giving director Benji Sperring and musical director Alex Beetschen a spectacular playground of a production to run riot in. Design from Mike Lees is a pure B-movie joy, capturing the joyously shaky production values of Toxie creators Troma Inc, and the tiny cast of five have a visible blast filling out the bulging population of Tromaville, New Jersey.

Despite the pleasingly right-on message, there are sticky points, with a few too many gags reliant on the ‘hilarious’ potential of a blind character bumping into things, yucks that feel uncomfortably exposed outside of the more pointedly extreme universe of Kaufman’s films. But this is a show with its mutant heart in the right place, a nuclear meltdown of arse-kicking choruses and eco-savvy bodily dismemberment.

This review is from 2016. 'The Toxic Avenger' will have a run at the Arts Theatre in Autumn 2017.

Written by
Stewart Pringle

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