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NY Theater Reviews

Nick Cordero/Ph: Sara Krulwich



The B movie gets a hilarious, laugh-a-minute musical makeover...

If the sight of someone being flogged with his own severed appendage doesn't sound like your cup of (fake) blood and guts, better pass on The Toxic Avenger, a musical spoof by playwright Joe diPietro and Bon Jovi's David Bryan based on the 1984 schlock-shock flick. But who could resist? It's all in such good fun - catharsis in the classic vein, without a hint of serious subtext.

The town of Tromaville, New Jersey, has turned into a sump of reeking effluents, thanks to the machinations of Good Earth CEO Babs Belgoody (Nancy Opell), who also happens to be mayor. Once geek supreme Melvin Ferd the Third (Nick Cordero ) unearths her double identity, he's a marked man: "Spill his blood, spill his guts / He found me out, that little putz." When her henchmen, the town bullies (Demond Green and Matthew Saldivar), try drowning Melvin in a barrel of sludge, however, he emerges a vengeful superhero, just in time to keep them from violating his unrequited crush, Sarah the blind librarian (Sara Chase).

Melvin's courtship has a much better chance once Sara, a budding romance-novelist, warms to the hideously deformed - and puzzlingly odiferous - "Toxie" as "My Big French Boyfriend" (with Green and Saldivar serving as girl-group backup). "I don't even mind the stench," she raves. "He's a mensch."

Subplots bubble like noxious elixirs, as the mayor pressures Professor Ken (Green again: he and Saldivar brilliantly field a handful of roles, including an earnest, persistent Springsteen analog) to identify Toxie's "kryptonite." Babs's means of persuasion? The steamy seduction of "Hot Toxic Love."

Superb as Green and Saldivar are, the shape-shifting award has to go to Opel, a Tony Award nominee (Urinetown) whose several roles - shades of Irma Vep - require her at one point to do battle with herself. And what a singer! The rock world has Ybeen missing out all these years - but you don't have to.