WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE: Arts Theatre
WHEN: 12/11 (matinee), runs to 3/12
The first thing that strikes us about this rock musical is how lavish its set appears: the band are situated on a walkway, level with the tops of gigantic vats of industrial waste and there’s even a sci-fi set of double doors which could be straight out of Flash Gordon.
- Read on for reasons including why The Toxic Avenger is the new Rocky Horror Show
The Toxic Avenger started life as a 1984 cult film and opened in New Jersey, where it is set, as a musical in 2008.
Its authors, Joe DiPietro and David Bryan (formerly of Bon Jovi), went on to win a Tony for Memphis in 2010 and there’s much about the music to recommend it but really it’s the show’s attitude – think very dark humour – which is its unique selling point.
It’s the story of Melvin/the Toxic Avenger (Ben Irish, impressive in a dual role) who dares to question the environmental credentials of the town’s mayor (Natalie Hope, in terrific voice and on filthy/evil form in multiple roles) who falls for a blind girl who prefers the superhero he becomes when henchmen dump him in a vat of industrial waste.
Director Benji Sperring helmed the sequel to the Rocky Horror Show, Shock Treatment at the King’s Head Theatre, and the comparisons to that camp classic are obvious. But it’s also a bit Young Frankenstein and feels fresher than that show which is currently running in the much larger Garrick Theatre nearby.
We must admit to feeling a little guilty about the treatment of romantic lead Sarah (Emma Salvo, always believable) whose disability is the butt of so many jokes. But in many ways that tells you all you need to know to appreciate the show, it rewards those whose humour is most juvenile.
Special mention must go to Oscar Conlon-Morrey and Che Francis who had the most fun in a variety of roles.
We always enter every show we see hoping for the best, but The Toxic Avenger surprised us by pulling us easily into its world and making us laugh right along with it.
You’ve not long until it closes at the Arts Theatre and we’d definitely recommend it.