Toxic Avenger Gets Musical Adaptation

Photo: Sarai Nissan


The Toxic Avenger is popularly known for its extreme gore and incomprehensibly low budget, but despite the Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufmen film being mostly entertaining to people who are high, the film has achieved a cult classic status.

When cheesy dialogue is replaced with catchy and clever ballads, obscene gore with a few cheap props, the final product is The Toxic Avenger Musical. The Equinox Theatre Company hosted their adaption of John DiPetro’s and David Bryan’s rock musical of the same name, directed by Colin Roybal, at The Bug Theatre on Aug. 31. Needless to say, it sounds intriguing at the very least

The storyline and characters are the same (if not at least very similar) as its source material, but many key differences make The Toxic Avenger Musical its very own comedy.

Both the film and the musical are set in the fi ctional city of Tromaville, New Jersey, which is troubled by a corrupt mayor and nuclear waste; both also feature an incompetent but good hearted protagonist. In the film, Melvin Ferd is the scrawny and bumbling gym janitor pestered by thugs Bozo and Slug—which results in Melvin careening into a vat of toxic waste—and finds love with a blind girl named Sarah, all while fighting crime in Tromaville.

Add music and a stage and he is now Melvin Ferd the III (Seth Maisel), the awkward and geeky city boy with a lisp who is still pestered by thugs Bozo and Sluggo (Kalond Irlanda and Chris Arneson), has already been in love with a blind librarian named Sarah (Miranda Byers), and is thrown into a vat of toxic waste in an effort to stop the corrupt Mayor Babs Belgoody.

One of the key differences (and perhaps most signifi cant improvement) of The Toxic Avenger’s story arch is the fact that the musical is actually and purposefully both very funny and clever. The 1984 film is hilarious because it is just so damn bad. It features terribly wooden acting, extremely explicit and over the top violence (like sticking a thug’s hand in a milkshake maker), and sexuality (two of the main female characters tend to feel very aroused while they take polaroids of pedestrians that their boyfriends have just pummeled with their car), and perhaps even worse        filmmaking.

The ambiguous nature of whether its B-Movie quality was intentional or not is what made the film a classic. The Equinox Theatre Company’s adaptation is still very low-budget, especially compared to other productions of the play, but this adds an extra sense of authenticity to the Toxic Avenger franchise, and another element of the same humor found within the film.

The cast of the musical has a host of talented actors, singers, and comedians; perhaps the most notable was Annika Merbel, who plays both the crooked mayor of Tromaville and Melvin’s mother, each of whom has a sordid past with one another. This dynamic creates a priceless musical number entitled “Bitch/ Slut/Liar/Whore” in which Merbel switches, not effortlessly but nonetheless skillfully, between the two characters.

The low-budget production value did not stop the Equinox Theatre Company from creating and performing a genuinely comical play. The play’s tight budget added to its authenticity and is a quality that would be missed from any other Toxic Avenger storyline.

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