The musical horror comedy is a subgenre with at least a couple of classics: The Rocky Horror Show, of course, and Little Shop Of Horrors. Add The Toxic Avenger: The Musical to that list.
Based on the pretty much unwatchable 1984 cheapie of the same name, it’s a batshit crazy show that spoofs the source material, celebrates camp, has an irresistible go-for-it spirit and it’s so side-splittingly funny they should have ambulances standing by to rush audience members to hospital for stitches.
The brainchild of Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan and gay lyricist Joe (Memphis) DiPetrio, it’s making its West End debut after a highly-praised 2016 stint at Southwark Playhouse and, if it’s laughs you’re after, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
The plot is as slim as the toxic smog of the New Jersey setting is dense: Whilst courting blind librarian Sarah, scientist Melvin is dropped into radioactive goo by thugs and emerges a disfigured monster with bulging biceps, intent on bringing down the corrupt lady mayor whilst still trying to get the girl.
But it’s what the creators do with this skinny premise that makes the musical such a big-fat comedy gem, cramming in filthy lyrics, hummable tunes, surreal twists and silly turns.
With just five actors in the cast it needs real hard-workers and man do this lot work hard! Mark Anderson is very winning as Melvin/Toxie, the geek with glasses who mutates into a geek with guns, and Emma Salvo, as the girl of his affections whose blindness turns out to be a blessing, is a marvel of comic timing. Then there’s Che Francis and Oscar Conlon-Morrey, dubbed Black Dude/White Dude, who tackle a dizzying array of characters from cops and thugs to gays and gals.
If there’s a show-stealer it’s Natalie Hope, who plays a nun and a sexy mayor and the mayor’s dowdy antagonist – at one point even playing the latter pair at the same time. It’s a magnificently madcap moment in a show that, focusing on a hero whose left eye is hanging on a thread on the outside of its socket, starts with its tongue firmly in its cheek and keeps it there for two hilarious hours.
The Toxic Avenger: The Musical is at the Arts Theatre, London, until December 3. For more great deals on tickets and shows visit tickets.attitude.co.uk
Words by Simon Button