REVIEW: The Toxic Avenger ★★★★★ – Arts Theatre

“…an all-round smash hit that will make you laugh until your face hurts”


West End Theatre Guide




The Toxic Avenger is a musical by Joe DiPietro, with music by David Bryan, based on the 1984 movie by the same name, telling the story of a scrawny nerd who’s in love with a blind librarian. He is being bullied by the corrupt mayor as he tries to stop her from polluting the town, and she has him dropped into a vat of toxic waste, from which he emerges as deformed mutant and hero, the Toxic Avenger. The musical originally debuted in New Jersey in 2008 and has since been on off-Broadway, off-West End, and has now transferred to the West End for a limited run only at the Arts Theatre.

The story revolves around stereotypical characters, including: a tyrannical mayor using her position of power to dispose of toxic waste created by her company; a determined, righteous and naïve youth standing up to “the man” to impress his girl; along with delinquent bullies, disappointed mothers, incompetent police officers, gossiping hairdressers – and a toxic mutant thrown into the mix! What should make for a dull and archetypal story of caricatures is actually a superb, well-written, knockout comedy.

The musical pushes the boat out on certain topics – for example, daring to create comedy from vision impairment and punning blindness as a “marketable handicap” to further book sales, and a mayor who uses sexuality as a weapon of manipulation. Is it inappropriate and outrageous? Perhaps. It is comic gold? Yes, absolutely.

There are wonderful satirical references to current-day world leaders and public figures (including Donald and Ivanka Trump and Opera Winfrey), and the show also makes references to some classic and modern musicals including Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, The Lion King, Hamilton and more. If a story about a toxic mutant hero and his love interest lacks a certain realism, these small details make all the difference and set The Toxic Avenger apart from many other innovative pieces of work by giving it relevance and relatability.

The stellar cast of five is made up of Mark Anderson (Anna of the Five Towns, Three Little Pigs, Book of Mormon) as Melvin/Toxie; Emma Salvo (Holy Crap, Grease, Newsrevue) as Sarah; and with Natalie Hope (Sweet Charity, Legally Blonde, The Commitments), Ché Francis (professional debut), and Oscar Conlon-Morrey (professional debut) all playing a range of roles throughout the musical. All five give outstanding performances working as a perfectly synchronised machine.

The Toxic Avenger is a thrilling comedy and an all-round smash hit that will make you laugh until your face hurts. This production brings together an outstanding cast to perform DiPietro’s witty book and Bryan’s catchy, expertly-crafted score including, ‘The Legend of the Toxic Avenger’, ‘Bitch Slut Liar Whore’ and ‘Hot Toxic Love’.

The Toxic Avenger is showing at the Arts Theatre until 3rd December (to book tickets, click here). For more information on your visit to the Arts Theatre, read our guide.