When I heard that Festoon Theater Company were putting on a production of the Toxic Avenger I was thrilled. Having seen a production of it at The Arts, which I adored, I was looking forward to getting another chance to relive this show.
Summing up The Toxic Avenger is easier said than done and few words could do justice to just how wacky and laugh out loud funny this show is. Based on a B movie of the same name The Toxic Avenger is set in New Jersey, a city drowning in toxic waste. Melvin is our unlikely superhero who decides to try and save the city from this fate but in doing so ends up the wrong side of the Mayor and dumped in a vat of toxic waste. Out of the waste the Toxic Avenger is created and he uses his new found status to try and win over his love interest, Sarah, a blind librarian.
The show is written brilliantly and hilariously and it therefore only has a chance of succeeding if the cast can deliver humour and the director goes all in with the visual gags. Luckily Festoon’s production had both, so much so that I commented at the end how my cheeks hurt from grinning and laughing. Director Stuart James was not afraid to heavily invest in vibrators as props and eek out every sexual innuendo going. Equally the references to other musicals really made this musical theater geeks heart happy. Whilst some of these gags were easy wins it is exactly this type of humour that the show calls for and a sign that the production team have fully understood the brief.
With a cast of just 5 it is imperative that there are no weak links in the Toxic Avenger. Winning me over instantly was Olive Stearman as Sarah The Blind Librarian. She had the task of hamming up the role of being blind whilst making it convincing and funny rather than offensive, all whilst delivering huge power ballads and boy did she deliver. She succeeded in this role so connivingly that by the end of the show I was drawing comparisons with her and the formidable Emma Salvo who played this role professionally.
Inti Conde played Melvin/ The Toxic Avenger. He was remarkably likeable from the start and how he remained as likeable with an eyeball hanging out is no easy feat but somehow he achieved it. Emma Newman played Mayor Babs Belgoody AND Ma Ferd. I won’t spoil how she ended up on stage in both roles at the same time but it was a real show highlight. Finally Joe McWilliam and Melissa Chitura-Bidwell played White Dude and Black Dude who played everything from Sarah’s best girlfriends to the school bullies. Their energy was great and due to their constant reinvention and appearances in difference scenes this high energy is vital to the show.
I must also commend the design elements of the show. Not only was it a very high standard but it was all very cohesive. Toxie’s costume was a work of art in itself and the programme, produced like a comic book honored the themes of the show beautifully.
A minor niggle was the sound and the balance between the band and the vocals, the band often overpowered the cast which meant that some of the jokes were lost. However I did see it on opening night and I always appreciate how short time there is to tech amateur shows so I am sure that this will get ironed out as the run progresses.
I urge you to get to Questors Theater to check out The Toxic Avenger. It is perfect if you want a night out where you will laugh so much of your face will hurt by the end.
The Toxic Avengers is on at Questors Theater until 30th April. You can book tickets and find out more about Festoon Theater Company on their website.
If you like this review you might also like my review for Cats by Center Stage, Working by Sedos and Shrek by Cygnet Players.