Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Toxic Love - The Toxic Avenger Musical - Musical Review

The Toxic Avenger Musical - New World Stages - Off-Broadway, New York - *** (out of 5 stars)
Music and Lyrics by David Bryan, Book and Lyrics by Joe DiPietro, Directed by John Rando, Choreographed by Wendy Seyb

Can a musical that's idiotic, silly, stupid, cheap-looking and completely out of its mind be any good? Sure, why not!?! Especially when the costumes and sets seem purposely cheap and over the top, when the dancing and the acting winks harder at you then a politician during election time, and when you have an energetic and talented cast acting out one of the most brainless musicals, there's an infectious spirited charm that hovers over this so-bad-it's good show.

John Rando, who did a wonderously riotous job with Urinetown (and a 180 elegancy with last season's Encores On The Town) uses the same manic charms on a story that is less intelligent (it's a musical about saving the environment but most of that gets thrown by the wayside for silly horror shlock and even sillier comedy) but even more outrageous. Based on an old cult movie, Bon Jovi's David Bryan and Joe DiPietro (who will be represented on Broadway in this coming Fall's Memphis) have fashioned a musical based around Melvin Ferd The Nerd, a nerd in love with the blind Sarah, and who tries to fight against the pollution in New Jersey, only to turn into a hideous monster after the evil Mayor gets him thrown into the vat of toxic waste Melvin was originally fighting to rid of. Then he gets revenge.

The rock songs are catchy enough to be fun and the story is silly enough to work, and much like my friend's Evil Dead: The Musical or The Rocky Horror Show, mixes humour and horror all with SONG!

But it's really the cast that sells this thing, and boy do they SELL IT. The comedy written isn't the funniest I've seen, but in the hands of this spirited cast, they make it work. And if it doesn't, they try to make the next joke work, or the next, or the next. It's non-stop and it's hard to dislike their charming manic attempts. Enthusiasm certainly holds a lot of weight on stage.

Nick Cordero plays our toxic hero Melvin Ferd The Third/The Toxic Avenger and does a nice switch from cute but nerdy Melvin and strong but greenfaced Toxie. His love Sarah is played with loopy sway by Sara Chase.

Unfortunately, Nancy Opel (so hilarious from Urinetown) was out the night we went, but luckily, understudy Erin Leigh Peck was HYSTERICAL in the multiple roles of Mayor, Ma, and a Nun. Sometimes together in the same scene. That song alone to watch Peck (or Opel or any actress) attempt to play both Mayor and Ma in the same scene is worth the price of admission. Peck's voice was also outstanding and it's a shame that she doesn't get to go on stage every night. Peck's beauty seemed at odds to her character costumes but it made it all the funnier, and Peck never holds back at selling each character.

Demond Green (above left, really? that's his real name? Are you sure?) and Matthew Saldivar (above right) round out the small cast by playing every other imaginable role, including Sarah's best friends, the bullies that beat up Melvin, a senior citizen, a thug, a professor, a cop, etc. etc. etc.

Essentially, they get to camp it up as woman, and get ripped up and slaughtered as men (and sometimes vice versa). Green and Saldivar enthusiastically run around the stage in various roles and milks each character for every laugh they can get. Green, who looks like a younger Tracy Morgan, but sings like Taye Diggs, is pure comedy gold and along with Peck, can steal the stage from a very loud (in both sight and sound) show.

While in the end, the puerile book and the lame jokes (made funny by the cast) holds the musical back, the spirited cast and the fun (if forgettable) songs make this show more memorable than Rock of Ages, which itself, is far more fun than Shrek. And if you like watching people's body parts ripped apart all in song (with some love story and environmental lesson thrown in for good measure), this show is for you!

There's a Special Blogger Discount Code for the show for all my readers:

Valid on performances: Now – July 31, 2009
Code: TOBLOG409
Regular Price: $71.50 / $51.50
Discounted Price: $45 (includes $1.50 facility fee)
Legal copy: This offer is valid for select performances thru 7/31/09 and is subject to availability. Not valid on prior purchase. Offer cannot be combined with other discounts or promotions; blackout dates and restrictions may apply. Limit eight (8) tickets per order. No refunds or exchanges. Offer may be revoked at any time. Additional service fees may apply to phone and website orders.
For tickets:
Photos by Carol Rosegg
Vance at

No comments: