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Review: The Toxic Avenger at Arts Theatre

The rock’n’roll comedy musical returns to London with a bang.

Based on the cult B-movie of the same name, The Toxic Avenger tells the story of nerdy Melvin Ferd the Third, who is thrown into a vat of toxic waste by the town bullies who are tormenting him.

He re-emerges as Toxie, a green-skinned mutant with superhuman strength, who vows to rid his hometown of the filth polluting the land, including the evil Mayor who has turned Tromaville into a dumping ground for Manhattan’s waste.

Originally adapted as an off-Broadway show by Joe DiPietro and David Bryan (the team behind the award-winning Memphis), The Toxic Avenger first came to London in 2016, where it enjoyed a critically acclaimed, sold-out run at the Southwark Playhouse.

The show has now returned to the Arts Theatre in the West End, and though some changes have been made, everything that London audiences loved about the show remains.

Mark Thompson – who originated the role of Melvin/Toxie last year – returns, and he’s lost none of his charm and joie de vivre in playing the role. He’s joined by Natalie Hope, who plays both the villainous, sexy Mayor and Toxie’s long-suffering mother, and Emma Salvo as Sarah, the blind librarian who falls in love with our hero.

Everything is played for laughs here. From Sarah’s disability to the Mayor’s sexual exploits, the show holds no prisoners. The Toxic Avenger is in no way subtle, there’s a real heart to the story here, which makes the more non-PC overtones even funnier. Funniest of all are ensemble players Oscar Conlon-Morrey and Ché Francis, who appear as everything from evil scientists and policemen to camp salon owners and high school jocks.

Somehow this cast of five – but especially this pair – manage to fill out a convincing, bulging population of Tromaville. They’re at their best when they turn up as Sarah’s best friends and confidantes, Dianne and Shaniqua, during rousing numbers My Big French Boyfriend, Choose Me Oprah! and All Men are Freaks.

Highlights include the filthy, sexy Evil Is Hot and act one closer Bitch/Slut/Liar/Whore – a duet solely performed by Hope as she plays both characters in the sing-off. Nothing is safe from the green, lurid reach of The Toxic Avenger, and the cast have a ball poking fun at other West End shows like Urinetown, School of Rock and The Phantom of the Opera.

Everything is done with tongue very firmly in cheek, and while there are messages to be had here – love yourself for who you are, pollution is bad, the good guys always win in the end – it’s really just a silly, arse-kicking evening of magnificent proportions.


The Toxic Avenger runs at the Arts Theatre until 3 December 2017. Tickets are available now at Ticketmaster.co.uk.

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