Category Archive for: ‘Gaetana Caldwell-Smith’

The Toxic Avenger, book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro; Music and lyrics by David Bryan

                     l-r, Courtney Hatcher, Branden Noel Thomas, Will Springhorn, Jr; Joshua Marx, and Allison F. Rich


The San Jose Stage Theatre presents the Regional Premiere of Joe DiPietro and David Bryan’s “The Toxic Avenger”, directed by Jonathan Rhys Williams. Winner of the Outer Critics Circle Award for “Best Off-Broadway Musical”.  Media and Communications Director Clinton Williams interviewed Di Pietro asking him why he wrote this musical.  DiPietro said that he knew a producer who told him she had the rights to the film and would he like to write a musical and added: “How would like the keyboardist from Bon Jovi to write the score?”  He jumped at the chance to write a “really funny, out there, rock-n-roll musical.”  And here it is!  With a rockin’ band headed by music director, Brian Allan Hobbs and David Bryan’s orchestrations and arrangements.

Known mainly for the 1984 film, “The Toxic Avenger”  musical is a campy irreverent take-off on Superheros, updated to reflect current events-i.e. climate change, chemical waste, political corruption, etc.  The premise is that a weak, 90 pound nerdy guy, Melvin Ferd III (an excellent, agile, full-voiced Will Springhorn Jr. ), a health club janitor is bullied by the equivalent of climate change deniers, and tossed into a toxic waste dump.  He emerges much changed, beefed up but bald, with ugly green lumps on his head, face, and arms- all his visible body parts- with one eye dangling loose from its socket.  He doesn’t know exactly what has happened except for being aware of his newly gotten super strength and ability to leap to the top of a flight of stairs in a single bound.   Realizing his superpowers, he christens himself The Toxic Avenger, nickname: “Toxie”.  He inadvertently rescues beautiful, blond Sarah, a blind librarian, played by beautiful, blond, Courtney Hatcher.  (Hatcher also plays Diane, a sexy author and singer.  Hatcher has had leads in Hairspray, Legally Blonde, and other popular musicals).  Being blind, of course, she has no idea what Melvin, er, Toxie looks like, but when she hears his new testosterone-enhanced voice and feels his muscles (No!  Don’t touch my face!) she falls in love with him.  He sings: “Thank God She’s Blind.”

The town of Tromavile, New Jersey, is toxic, not only for its waste, but also its corrupt town officials, criminals, and all around bad guys, whom Toxie eventually dispatches.  Sarah, his Ma (Allison F. Rich), and others look to Toxie to clean it up, and entreat him to find Melvin.  Also, they want a cure for Toxie, as well.  In Di Pietro’s new iteration, he includes gay and transgender characters, and, by necessity, has had to cut several gruesome, bloody scenes that had appeared in the film.

Allison F. Rich shines as newly elected mayor, slinky/evil/sexy Babs Belgoody- “Evil is Good”- and as Ma Ferd, Melvin’s stereotypical, apron-wearing,  and overbearing mother.  At one point, she sings about her  disappointing son.    Joshua Marx and Branden Noel Thomas play multiple roles (male, female, and transgender types- designated as “White Man” and “Black Man”) so deftly, that the production appears have a much larger cast.  At curtain call, I kept waiting for the rest of the cast to take a bow.  These two guys, as the program notes state: “play… well, everyone else … bullies, mobsters, old ladies and stiletto-wearing back up singers-  the show also features the most memorable and unbelievable duet you’ll ever see on any stage.”

The Stage’s “The Toxic Avenger” is  fun, delightful- a first-rate production on all levels.  From actors to musicians, and creative team not a beat is missed.  Young children and adults who are put off by and take umbrage to contemporary, everyday slang are advised to stay away to avoid spoiling it for the rest of us.

Final Performances: Wed. July 12,                                                                                                                                 

Thu, Jul 13, 2017 @ 7:30 PM
Fri, Jul 14, 2017 @ 8:00 PM
Sat, Jul 15, 2017 @ 8:00 PM
Sun, Jul 16, 2017 @ 2:00 PM