Toxic Avenger brings camp and satire

Dismembered bodies, drag queens and slutty women share one thing in common: they are frequently the butt of jokes. When they’re mixed together and seasoned with green slime and rock’n’roll they produce one hilarious, boundary-pushing musical.

Toxic Avenger, local theatre company Broadway West’s newest production, is an award-winning show that takes the stereotypical juke box musical everyone loves and gives it an unconventional slimy twist. The story is based on the 1984 Lloyd Kaufman cult film by the same name.

The show follows a love-sick geek Melvin Ferd III (Mark Nivet) as he tries to woo the hot, blind librarian Sarah (Kathy Zaborsky) by saving New Jersey from the evil governor’s selfish interest in reducing the city to a toxic dump. Melvin is pushed into a radioactive vat of goo and emerges with superhuman strength à la The Hulk. Complications arise when Melvin is pursued for violent crimes and the librarian falls for him only because she mistakes him for a hot Frenchman.

The show debuted in New York where it won Best New Off-Broadway Musical. The intimate Inglewood venue ties the show back to its indie roots — a small stage with improvised scenery and props enhances the engagement of the audience with the actors. Especially since the show only has five actors but 25 different roles — managing the musical’s costumes is a feat in itself.

One of the best things about the show is the catchy music. It was co-written by Bon Jovi’s David Bryan and is performed live by a four-piece on-stage band. The songs resemble those of a typical musical in their melody, but contain cheeky lyrics and an edginess of rock’n’roll. Song titles include “All Men are Freaks,” “Thank God She’s Blind” and “Bitch/Slut/Liar/Whore.”

Equally impressive is the outstanding performance of all the actors. Their characters are often exaggerated stereotypes and yet performed in a way that seems so genuine, one can’t help being sucked into the drama. They brilliantly succeed in imparting their enthusiasm upon the viewers.

Broadway West is definitely fun, allowing drinks into the theatre, serving free popcorn and offering a personable reception.

For those who find most musicals sweet and childish, Toxic Avenger is sure to please. The show is ironic in that it is a musical and yet it’s startlingly self-aware and bluntly satirizes the genre. It’s both campy and offensive, offering the audience an unexpected show.

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