REVIEW: The Toxic Avenger @ The Arts Theatre

Reviewed by Nathan Deane

Pollution and superheroes combined don’t sound like the most appealing subject for a musical – so as we sat in the Arts Theatre waiting for the show to start, we here hesitant to find out what was about to unfold in front of us.

The Toxic Avenger is based on a cult 80’s horror/superhero movie of the same name, which was considered so horrifying many cinemas refused to show it.

The musical, however, has had a slightly different history. The musical’s London premiere was in 2016 at the Southwark Playhouse and subsequently transferred to the West End this year. The show tells the tale of Melvin Ferd (The Third), a pro-environment scientist who falls into a vat of toxic goo, emerging as The Toxic Avenger – a green mutant with superhuman strength, aptly nicknamed Toxie. Toxie has to save the town of Tromaville from the pollution caused by the evil mayor as well as win the heart of the town’s blind librarian, Sarah.

Mark Anderson, who plays Toxie, is such a gem. It’s rare to find a musical theatre actor that plays a role as perfectly as he plays Melvin/Toxie. Mark’s singing voice is crazy amazing, his dynamics are out of this world, especially in his big act two number “You Tore My Heart Out”. His acting is so fresh, and the contrast between Melvin and Toxie is insane, they’re both the same person yet have so many differences, aside from skin type.

Emma Salvo plays Sarah, the librarian. I can’t think of any other musical theatre characters that are blind throughout the entirety of a show, so seeing Sarah is kind of like…a breath of fresh air? Emma brings an innocence to the character that helps bring the laughs. Emma stops the show. Literally. (You’ll understand what I mean once you’ve seen the show.) Her belt blows the audience out of the water, especially at the end of “All Men Are Freaks” – probably the funniest moments in the show is Sarah’s obsession with Oprah Winfrey, which I relate to a lot. I mean, who doesn’t love Oprah?!

Emma Salvo & Mark Anderson, photo credit Irina Chira

Ché Francis (as Black Dude) and Oscar Conlon-Morrey (as White Dude) have possibly the hardest job in the show, playing 5+ characters raging from the town bullies to sassy ladies Shinequa and Diane. They sing some vocally challenging, crazily written songs as well as crushing some of the fastest costume changes I have ever seen. How do they do it? I just don’t know! But they rock!!

Last but definitely not least, Natalie Hope plays Melvin’s mother, Ma Ferd, the town’s corrupt Mayor, and a nun. Her vocal ability is KILLER! She slays every song she sings, and playing 2 main characters must be a challenge…especially when you have to sing a duet…with yourself. Which, by the way, she slays. That number closes act one, and I can tell why! It’s one of the many “wow!” moments of the show.

Oscar Conlon-Morrey, Natalie Hope & Ché Francis, photo credit Irina Chira

The show is fantastic from top to toe, musically creative and the book is hilarious! Such a perfect show, and definitely my new favourite. I pray to the musical theatre gods that this show gets extended – it’s what the West End has been needing!

5stars

The Toxic Avenger runs until 3rd December.

https://toxicavengermusical.co.uk for tickets

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