By Dana Lacey
You might remember The Toxic Avenger. The campy horror/comedy film about a vigilante mutant nerd debuted in 1984 to little fanfare, but quickly captured the hearts of B-movie aficionados. Well it’s back, and more musical.
This Halloween marks the Canadian debut of the musical The Toxic Avenger by Dancap Productions, which is loosely based on the cult classic. Meet Melvin: He’s on a quest to save his fictional New Jersey city from the pollution that chokes the air. He’s also madly in love with the beautiful blind librarian. Problem is, Melvin’s the typical sweatervest square. Smooth he is not.
All that changes when he discovers that the Mayor has been dumping nuclear waste in the harbour. Before he can tell anyone, the Mayor’s cronies dump little Melvin into a vat of radioactive waste and leave him to die. But when the duo try to rape the librarian, a mutant with superhuman strengths and slimy green dreads tears their limbs off. The librarian falls in love with her saviour, who she calls Toxie. The graphic violence is extremely satisfying. Thankfully it continues throughout the play.
The love story and quest to stop pollution are predictable and unengaging: the latter carries no modern-day relevance or even much of an environmental message (although that may be a relief to some). But plot hardly matters when it comes to quality camp. With that, the Toxic Avenger delivers a hilarious and must-see show. Of course, I only saw the preview and changes and fine-tuning will continue until the official opening night, and I’m sure it’s only going to get better.
While Toxie himself is a bit of a bore (with the exception of “Thank God She’s Blind”, why so many lame love songs?), the rest of the characters carry the play. I loved Louise Pitre, who played both the devious and sexy Mayor and Melvin’s no-nonsense mother–which made for an epic confrontation. To add to the camp value Jamie McKnight and Daren A. Herbert played various (and hilarious) supporting characters, managed to conquer the art of physical comedy while dancing, singing and looking damn sexy in heels.
And the one-liners don’t disappoint (“Listen up Manhattan, we know you’re stinking rich. Your bed sheets may be satin, but Jersey’s not your bitch!”) Okay that was two lines but you get the point. The dialogue is tight and sharp, and far from PC–I even found myself feeling offended a few times, which I absolutely love. The play opens on Halloween, a perfect way to start off a night of cheesy scary movies. Don’t miss out.
Photo of Evan Alexander Smith courtesy of Paula Wilson
The Toxic Avenger plays from Oct. 31 to Jan. 3 at The Music Hall (147 Danforth Ave, Toronto) Showtimes: Tuesday to Saturday at 8pm, Sat. at 4 pm, Sun. at 3 pm. Tickets are available online, at the box office or by calling 416 644 3665 Prices range from $55.25 to $89.70.