TOXIC AVENGER MUSICALBook and Lyrics by Joe DiPietro
Music and Lyrics by David Bryan
Orchestrations and Arrangements David Bryan and Christopher Jahnke
Lakeside Community Theatre
Director and Scenic Designer - Benjamin Keegan Arnold
Music Director - Rebecca Lowrey
Stage Manager/Assistant Director - Rustin Rolen
Assistant Director/Assistant Stage Manager - Molly Bower
Choreographer - Amanda Guerrero
Lightig Design - Douglas Gill
Sound Design - Paul Niles
Property Design - Katlyn Snader
Costume and Hair Design - Maranda Kinsella, Nathan Scott
Mayor/Ma/Nun - Stephanie Felton
Melvin Ferd/The Toxic Avenger - Sada Hossain
Sarah - Reanna Bell
White Dude - Oscar J. Kincheloe
Black Dude - Shane Alexander
Reviewed Performance: 8/18/2018
Reviewed by Mildred Austin, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Now, having apparently missed the 80’s and 90’s completely, I never saw the original Toxic Avenger movie (now a “Cult Classic” my forty-something son informed me), read the book, saw the comic versions or played the video game, all of which the generation to my rear seem very cognizant of. So, I had no idea what to expect. Oh, alright, I DID google it, which only made me think “This is musical comedy fare??” Just shows to go you how off base I was. The book is well written and hilarious, and the music is wonderful! And it all fits together like that hand in the glove thing, NOT the one that didn’t fit, the other one.
Let’s get this straight, right from the start. This is a DIFFICULT show! Don’t be fooled by that super hero, comic book aspect of the story. The musical features only five actors and all but one take on multiple roles. Did you get that? Multiple as in, well, I lost count on two of them! To describe the show as madcap is an understatement. It relies on energy, energy and more energy from those five actors. And, at Lakeside’s production, under the creative hand of director Benjamin Keegan Arnold, energy doesn’t just flow out, it explodes!
First, there’s that set! Took me back a little to POLOROID STORIES, also directed by Arnold, which I saw and reviewed (and loved) at Lakeside previously. This time though, it’s a toxic waste dump in Tromaville, New Jersey, and it looks like it. Having big barrels practically oozing green radioactive waste, form the basis of the background is perfect. Love the special effects of green smoke and light! Also, the chain link fencing that cordons off the combo is priceless and blends in quite appropriately. Kudos to Mr. Arnold, the director of the show, for also providing the unexpected but oh so appropriate setting for the production!
Before I rant on, for those of you who, like me, aren’t familiar with the superhero, Toxic Avenger, or “Toxie” to his girlfriend, this musical premiered on April 6, 2009 at the New York World Stages and was As recently as 2012, it opened at the Alley Theatre in Houston and the cast included Constantine Margoulis (remember him from American Idol ?). The plot revolves around a total and complete “nerd”, Melvin Ferd, the Third, who has vowed to clean up the town of Tromaville, New Jersey, from all the toxic waste being dumped there by New York City. Melvin is secretly in love with the town librarian, Sarah, who is blind, but can’t bring himself to act on his feelings. There’s a corrupt woman mayor who tries to thwart Melvin, and as a result, henchmen dump him into one of those glowing barrels, thinking to kill him off, but, instead, he emerges permanently scarred, a green scary-looking monster determined to set the town to rights over the waste dumping and the corrupt mayor. But there’s that blind girl, Sarah, who now has fallen for Melvin, but doesn’t know what he looks like. In the mix is White Dude and Black Dude, who fill in all the necessary roles to support the plot.
The music is outstanding as provided by Rebecca Lowery on keyboard, Aaron Sutton on guitar, Catherine Conlin woodwinds, Chris Wooley Bass and Kami Lojan, drums. Ms. Lowery is sometimes a performer as she enters into and mirrors the hilarity onstage. Live music, and good live music such as this is, is so preferable to a sound track and certainly helps to move everything along.
The five actors were well chosen for their roles. I couldn’t help but feel they must be exhausted by the energetic performances they gave, and I was attending the matinee. They had another performance just a few hours later to prepare for! But I’m sure this group was up to it. There was no weak link in the ensemble. They played beautifully off each other with a spirit of pure fun spilling out to the audience.
Stephanie Felton in her three roles as the nun, Melvin’s ma and ma’s arch rival, the Mayor, exploded with energy. Each of her characters were quite different and she was required to switch between Ma and the Mayor quickly and often and she brought it off without a flaw. She has a strong voice and can belt her numbers out when that is called for. And, I won’t spoil it for you but her number “Evil Is Hot” is a show-stopper!
Sadat Hossain had only one flaw—he’s handsome! What a burden for an actor to bear! But he effectively uses his body and voice to convey meek and mild and his transformation to the Avenger is amazing. His vocals match his two characters effectively and he is completely believable as the lovesick, sweet Melvin and the awesome super hero. Love that growl!
Reanna Bell manages both the super-sweet Sarah, and also Sarah’s fantasy sexy side. She hip swings and twirks her way through numbers that are hilarious, since she is also blind. Her frantic floor search for her white cane is demonstrative of her ability as an actress and the director’s staging effectiveness. Everything, all stage business works!
Our “Greek Chorus” in the show is provided in the many characters assumed by White Man and Black Man. The two actors in these roles are as different as night and day—black and white—tall and short—you get the picture. Oscar Kincheloe as the former pulls off the male version of dumb blond perfectly, no matter which character he is inhabiting. Another strong singer, he establishes each of those many manifestations of dullness in new and different ways. I admit I was totally taken offguard when he met with the terrible violence of the Avenger. More mania and totally hysterical!
On the other hand, Shane Alexander as Black Dude is Mr Animation! His face is his ace in this role. He can twist and contort it and role those big eyes all around at the same time he is using his entire body to portray a character. The hairdresser role will leave you gasping for breath. He is very astute as an actor in using voice, body and facial expression to portray a character, and in this show, several characters, each different. As with the others, his vocals are spot on.
To be honest, after a cursory Google of the show beforehand, I was in the dark as to how all this hilarity and quirky subject matter would be pulled off. But leave it to Lakeside. This theatre delivers on their advertising with solid theatre whether it be a funky musical or a serious drama. As the show progressed from scene to scene, I have to say, I found myself anxious to see what was coming next. I watched and listened and anticipated the fun to come! Choosing this musical for their current season was a smart theatrical decision. As we finish a summer full to bursting with Super Hero movies for the kiddos, this silly, goofy, irreverent stage show was just the ticket for us guffaw hungry adults!
Oh, and a special shout out to the members of the Running Crew and Dressers—Donna Arnold, Sunday Smith, Kristy Sims, Kristina Morrow and Devin Kelly. I was so glad to see you included in the curtain call! You didn’t have a moment’s rest during the entire show and you pulled it off without a hitch. Must admit I would like to have been a mouse in the corner backstage during the big Ma/Mayor sing-off. Madness and mayhem and you did it. Congratulations for a very successful show to you all!
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