Review by James Lindorf
In 1984 toxic waste invaded Tromaville New Jersey, giving birth to everyone’s favorite melted Melvin, The Toxic Avenger. Since then Lloyd Kaufman has directed three additional films that have seen Toxie fall in love, travel to Japan, and face off against his doppelgänger from another dimension. In 2008 Toxie’s world changed forever with the first performance of playwright Joe DiPietro and composer David Bryan’s The Toxic Avenger the Musical. After a few years of struggling to find its audience, the show had a 10-week run on London’s famed West End.
BroadwayHD, the company that wants to become the Netflix of the theater world filmed three of those performances creating a version everyone can enjoy from the comfort of their home. The streaming service released Melvin Ferd the Third on the world on April 9th, 2018. I was lucky enough to watch the world premiere with Lloyd Kaufman and the creative team from BroadwayHD while attending C2E2 in Chicago.
I would say that I am a casual fan of musicals. I like them, but usually it is my wife’s idea to go see one not mine. So, I don’t know DiPietro or Bryan by name but they did an excellent job transforming the campy action horror movie into something fit for the stage. The writing is smart but silly, precisely what the . The script is regularly updated to keep the pop culture references current. Bryan also did a great job with the music in the show. It is the variety in song styling that really makes the show stand out. There are folk songs, power ballads, and even a song that would be more at home on a 90’s R&B station.
The set was one background that was altered by opening columns, turning things around, or adding furniture to help create the feeling of a new location. The performers did a good job keeping me focused on them, so I wasn’t wondering why Sarah’s bedroom was in the sewer. The cast is the most impressive part of the show. The five of them told a story that involves at least a dozen characters. Most of that work is put on by two actors who each play about five characters, one actress plays two parts and the other two focus on a single character. It makes sense for whoever plays Melvin because there isn’t enough time to get in and out of the Toxie costume over and over. The same can’t be said for the part of Sarah, but since that character is blind, maybe they don’t want to ruin that illusion.
The simple TL: DR review is that The Toxic Avenger musical was better than I ever thought it could be. The audience I saw it with absolutely loved it, but I don’t think it is just for them. You will understand more of the jokes if you have seen the movie and the more recent, the better. However, the show is of a high enough quality that it could be an excellent introduction for people that think they won’t like musicals. It is not for kids or the easily offended as curse words and sex jokes abound, but like The Book of Mormon, if you know what you’re getting into, you can have a great time.
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