Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Review The Toxic Avenger

Peter Barker has a monster time as the universe's slimiest and greenest superhero preserves small town values and gets the girl.

The Toxic Avenger
Lyrics and Book Joe Dipietro
Lyrics and Music David Bryan

The Geek Goes Green

The latest musical to open in London's West End is The Toxic Avenger, an enjoyable romp spoofing its way through American musical tropes, told with energy and wit.

The musical, with a book by hit musical Memphis's team of book writer Joe Dipietro and Bonovi's keyboardist David Bryan, is an adaptation of Lloyd Kaufman cult 1980s' superhero comedy movie about New Jersey nerd Melvin determined to seek out the culprits behind the toxic sludge stinking out his home town.

The toxic waste had been brought to Tromaville by the crooked mayor (Natalie Hope) and her cohorts. Melvin (Mark Anderson) finds proof of her complicity, digging out documents from the town's library archives.

He falls for the blind librarian, Sarah (Emma Salvo), an innocent party deliberately appointed by the mayor in order to keep secret a corrupt scheme polluting the area. She rejects  Melvin but fate plays a hand for our hapless protagonist.

Attacked by the Mayor's thugs and dumped in the toxic sludge, Melvin is transformed from weakling citizen to Toxie, badass mutant superhero out for revenge and a town clean up.

Suffice to say, lurid green Toxie gets his girl in the end, but not before plenty of setbacks to overcome and musical numbers written by Bryan and DiPietro.

A skilful  five-piece band  on a mezzazine, led by musical director Alex Beetsche, belt out the rock numbers with precision and gusto matching the confident delivery of Salvo’s Sarah, and Mark Anderson’s Toxie.

Designer Takis's  ingenious set of sewage pipes triples up as the library a hairdressers' premises and  a doctor’s surgery.

This show had its European premiere at Southwark Playhouse last year after earlier runs in New York and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

So it’s not surprising it is now a polished piece with director Benji Sperring back at the helm, although it's hardly subtle.

The show knowingly acknowledges its own silliness, with the cast scripted to ham it up, frequently breaking the fourth wall. It's even good natured and absurd enough to keep some of the jokes at the expense of librarian Sarah  from becoming offensive.

There's plenty of entertainment value, but there are times it becomes repetitive. In the second half, there's very little plot development even if the madcap antics continue.

This is an amusing and knowing evening in the theatre. The show has its flaws, but it's well-designed and energetically directed by Benji Sperring with choreography by Lucie Pankhurst.

Best of all, it delivers plenty of laughs, thoroughly deserving of a TLT amber and, naturally, stroke green 😉 light.

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