The Toxic Avenger The Musical
Arts Theatre, London
Seen October 25th, 2017
Reviewed by Jade Prince
If you are needing something to make you laugh, this show will certainly do the trick! Based on the film released in 1984, this rock musical combines dark comedy, romance, brutally honest truths about the world we live in and an epic score to give you a theatre experience you shall never forget!
The town of Tromaville, New Jersey, is turning into a toxic cesspit as it quickly becomes the dumping ground for the rich’s waste. When the situation becomes critical it is up to one unlikely hero to save the day, a hero by the name of Melvin Ferd the Third (Mark Anderson). His journey of self-discovery, self- acceptance and finding love is given a hilarious twist.
So, I went into this show with no knowledge of the story just the recommendation from friends saying that if I love Urinetown and The Rocky Horror Picture Show then I will also love this. They weren’t wrong! It is the perfect blend of the two with strong elements of Heathers -musical as well.
Initially it started off very cheesy and I didn’t know whether I was going to enjoy it. The opening number ‘Who will say New Jersey?’ was incredibly similar to the opening of Urinetown with the narration and bombardment of intentional jokes. The narration was not the main focus of the rest of the show which was nice. If my memory serves me right, it only happened again in act 2 briefly. The cheese quickly subsided and more well thought out jokes were thrown in. There were so many unexpected ones which really caught me off guard and brought out my ugly laugh! It was so refreshing to hear new jokes that I hadn’t heard before in other shows. Typically speaking a lot of shows do re-use jokes by rewording or changing the context slightly however these were completely different. Occasionally bordering on offensive but come on, we all laugh at the offensive ones!
The use of the set was great and the scene changes were subtle but worked so well. I love how the pipes hid a lot of the subtle scene changes. The three pipes on stage opened out to reveal either bookshelves (library scene), doctor’s cabinets, a coffee shop and a salon. This worked really well because despite the stage being on the small side at the arts theatre, without very much effort the scene noticeably changed. I absolutely loved the chase scene towards the mid half of act 2. It was beautiful. It involved the cast running from stage left to stage right and then backstage to re-enter on stage left to do it again during that one number. It helped to add another element of comedy to the show.
Before seeing this show it is important to remember that it does not take itself seriously at all! To be honest, it doesn’t take anything seriously, including other musicals. It pokes fun at other successful musicals however this was kept up to date and also incorporated into the set. Some of the show referred to were Hamilton, Hairspray, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Urinetown, Book of Mormon, In the Heights and Wicked. These were through a mixture of very obvious and very subtle hints.
The whole cast were incredible! The stand out performances were Emma Salvo (Sarah). The way she carried that character blew me away. Sarah is a blind girl, Salvo acted it so well. She never focused on any of the other characters present on stage and although could see everything that was happening, she was unable to react as it would break the illusion of her character being blind. A huge shout out to Ché Francis (Black Dude). His facial expressions and eyes were giving me life! Absolutely hilarious! I take my hat off to that cast and the way some of them had to double up or even triple up their character portrayal. Francis and Oscar Conlon-Morrey (White Dude) were fabulous with all their other smaller character roles. The speed in which they changed into them and how drastically different each one was blew me away. Another stand out moment during the show was Natalie Hope (Mayor/ Ma Ferd/Nun) and they way she handled ‘Bitch/Slut/Liar/Whore’. Every note was absolutely perfect, the acting of both characters was still there and the comedy.
This was a very enjoyable show. I highly recommend it to everyone. It is back in London after a sell out run at the Southwark Playhouse last year. Be sure to snatch a ticket for this show. It has a limited time left at the Arts Theatre and is booking until December 3rd. Tickets and more information available here: https://artstheatrewestend.co.uk/whats-on/the-toxic-avenger/