Following a sold-out UK premiere at Southwark Playhouse (where it received six Off West End Award nominations including Best New Musical), cult rock musical The Toxic Avenger: The Musical is transferring to the Arts Theatre for a strictly limited season. Here we speak to lead actor Mark Anderson who plays mutant freak Melvin who has superhuman strength. Plus Stephen Vowles reviews the show.
Hi Mark, what’s the basic story of The Toxic Avenger: The Musical?
Melvin Ferd, the Third, is an aspiring earth scientist who discovers that Tromaville is under threat from the mysterious appearance of giant vats of toxic waste. He goes on a mission to find out who is responsible in order to stop the pollution and impress the object of his affection, Sarah, the blind librarian. When Melvin digs a little too deep, he gets thrown into a vat of toxic waste by a pair of goons that think he’s dead but Melvin re-emerges as The Toxic Avenger. He continues on his mission in his newfound superhero body, ripping off the limbs of anyone that stands in his way.
What can you tell me about Melvin?
He is so brilliant. He’s a beautiful soul with all the energy and passion in the world but sadly no real skill-set to back it up. He isn’t that gifted in the looks department either but his heart is very much in the right place, which is the most important thing.
Is he a Peter Parker/Spiderman hero type or more of a Bruce Banner/Hulk anti-hero?
Oh, he’s definitely an anti-hero but still nowhere near as impressive as Bruce Banner. Toxie is a lot more sensitive than the Hulk though.
And what about his love interest?
She’s very special. Sarah is blind but completely self-sufficient and works in the town library. She is kind of feisty and very highly sexed, and has an unhealthy obsession with Oprah Winfrey. I think Melvin loves her so much because she is nice to him, which not many people are. We had so much fun in rehearsals discovering the blind aspect of the character and Emma Salvo, who plays her, is hilarious and has the singing voice of a goddess.
How has playing a mutated superhero been?
So. Much. Fun. I really wanted to give the sense that he is uncomfortable in his new body, like he doesn’t know what to do with it almost, so a lot of the physicality is awkward and cumbersome. He has moments when he is overtaken by rage (or even just emotion in general) and has uncontrollable urges like ripping people’s heads off. It’s high energy whilst at the same time carrying around a heavy costume. Basically my entire head is covered in prosthetics and I can only see out of one eye so that can be a little challenging. And very hot.
What can you tell us about the songs?
They’re INCREDIBLE! David Bryan, who co-wrote the musical with Joe DiPietro, is most famous for being in Bon Jovi. Like, actual Bon Jovi! He co-wrote a lot of their songs so the music in The Toxic Avenger is very similar. It has a massive rock feel and there are some awesome power ballads, which are amazing to sing. They’re also really smart and incredibly witty. My favourite lyric is where I rhyme ‘geranium’ and ‘cranium’. Ha! It just makes me giggle. The best thing is watching the audience react. They are laughing their heads off but too scared they’ll miss something at the same time.
What do you want people to take away from The Toxic Avenger?
I want people to have laughed until their faces hurt and basically to have had a good time. It’s high-energy and fast paced and total escapism for a couple of hours. And I want everyone to find his or her freak because there’s one in each and every one of us!
Review: The Toxic Avenger – The Musical
The Arts Theatre, until 3 Dec
With book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro and music and lyrics by David Bryan, The Toxic Avenger: The musical is a laugh riot deliberately going for the jugular with non-PC, blind funny jokes. But at its heart is a very acute and profound comment on the state of American society and it’s a point well made.
The score has strong melodies with standout numbers being My French Boyfriend and Evil Is Hot. The cast is outrageous and all process vocal ranges that took the roof off the theatre.
The pop and comic book look and feel to the production made the whole thing gel. This is a feel-good, energetic, broad farce of a musical as American as apple pie.
The way the play is staged utilises well known comic devices bordering on slapstick but that is what makes this show so good; even namechecking Phantom of the Opera and Rocky Horror with cheeky acknowledgement site gags that got the belly laughs they deserved.
This is a musical based on the principle that revenge is sweet, and sweet this show is. With the cast of Mark Anderson as Melvin and Toxie, Emma Salvo as Sarah, a tour de force performance from Natalie Hope playing multiple roles of the sex crazed Mayor, Ma Ferd and a Nun, and a very special mention has to made to Che Francis, also playing multiples roles, and lastly Oscar Conlon-Morrey whose skill as a clown was outstanding.
The Toxic Avenger: The Musical is about having a good time and being aware that we are actually destroying our planet and that message is put across in a vibrant, passionate way by a cast that were having a ball and it showed. Marvelous stuff! Stephen Vowles
The Toxic Avenger: The Musical runs until 3 December at the Arts Theatre, Great Newport Street, London WC2H 7JB. Book tickets via artstheatrewestend.co.uk