Monday, November 2, 2015

reviews - THE TOXIC AVENGER - Phoenix Theatre

Caleb Reese
Photo by Erin Evangeline / Phoenix Theatre
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through November 22nd.

"...The Toxic Avenger, who was once 98 lbs. of solid nerd until he fell into a vat of toxic waste...it’s the feel-goo musical of the year, and this new, ‘R’ rated, high-energy and laugh-out-loud funny production at Phoenix Theatre’s Hormel Theatre shows why.... Tromaville, New Jersey has become a toxic waste dump and it’s up to Melvin Ferd the Third (an appropriately nerdy looking Caleb Reese) to clean things up.  It’s only when he discovers that the conniving Mayor Babs Belgoody (Johanna Carlisle) is receiving kick-backs from Manhattan by allowing the town to be overrun with toxic-waste barrels that Melvin’s problems begin.  He’s thrown into a barrel by two of the mayor’s goons and left for dead. Except he’s not.  He’s alive.  It’s just that the toxic waste has altered a few things, like his size, his strength, his color, and his skin complexion...under Michael Barnard’s lively direction, it does have the drive, the energy and the above all, the wit...In addition to the three leads there’s also high-level support from Lucas Coatney and Nathaniel Tenenbaum who between them play an exhaustive amount of secondary characters continually running on and off stage....Reese’s Toxie is, frankly, hilarious, looking here something like the Hulk with leprosy, Trisha Hart Ditsworth’s blind Sarah is sweet, playful and sexy..and the energy behind Johanna Carlisle’s devious mayor never quits. ...With a tight band lead by Jeff Kennedy at the keyboard...and Beowulf Borritt’s outstanding set design ...The Toxic Avenger is fun to both hear and, because of the attention to small details, to watch.  There’s a free-for-all feel that often appears in danger of becoming too loose and falling apart, but in a show like this with all of its intentional silliness, its adult humor and a rock score with song titles like Hot Toxic Love, Evil is Hot and Thank God She’s Blind, expecting something that might fall apart is all part of the fun.  As Trisha’s blind Sarah states, “Violence is always wrong, even if it’s entertaining.” " -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"Before they won Tony Awards for the hit Broadway musical Memphis, David Bryan and Joe DiPietro were spending time in the toxic dumps of New Jersey bringing the cult sci-fi/horror classic comedy film The Toxic Avenger to musical life. The silly, offbeat musical is having its Arizona premiere in a hilarious, exceptionally cast, and all around superb production from Phoenix Theatre.
... Bryan's rock score features upbeat, varied musical numbers with clever and very witty lyrics by Bryan and DiPietro, and DiPietro's smart book is fast paced and funny. The end result of their adaptation is a comical cross between a sweet love story and the absurd tale of a mutant freak who is just trying to save his home state...Caleb Reese exudes sweetness and charm, with an earthy voice that's full of fire as Melvin/Toxie. As the librarian Sarah, Trisha Ditsworth is ditzy, caring, smart and sexy, sometimes all at the same time, with a voice that soars to the rafters of the Hormel Theatre....As both the Mayor and Melvin's mom, Johanna Carlisle is a firecracker, full of menace and power. The duet the two characters have together is a tour de force, with Carlisle having a blast and not missing a beat throughout the challenging song. Rounding out the cast are probably the two hardest working actors in town right now, Nathaniel Tenenbaum and Lucas Coatney, who play around a dozen characters each, and play them all to the hilarious hilt....Director Michael Barnard doesn't miss a beat in achieving performances from his cast that are funny but never too broad, while always letting the sweet heart of the story beat strongly. The creative elements are superb and feature the contributions of several of the original 2009 Off-Broadway creative team from their designs for the 2012 Alley Theatre production in Houston, including Beowulf Boritt's smart and inventive set design, David C. Woolard's fun and colorful costumes, and the Toxie mask design and prosthetics by Louis Zakarian. Complementing the Off-Broadway creative team are Robert Kolby Harper's comical choreography, exceptional lighting from Michael Eddy, Terre Stead's amusing wig and makeup designs, and a rocking band expertly led by Jeff Kennedy....With exceptional creative elements, confident direction, and a cast that is having such a blast that their fun washes over into the audience, you can't help but leave Phoenix Theatre's production of The Toxic Avenger with a big smile on your face."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"...Phoenix Theatre’s “The Toxic Avenger,” ... madcap and riotous comedy that is filled with a succession of superlative jokes, catchy but innocuous songs, plus an inane story about a slovenly town where Manhattan deposits its toxic waste..Silly to be sure but “The Toxic Avenger” evolves into hysterical tomfoolery when the shenanigans are performed with impeccable comic style by five talented farceurs.  The result is an entertaining two-hour laugh fest.  As you leave, you realize there’s nothing of substance in “The Toxic Avenger” but boy have you been rapturously entertained.....“The Toxic Avenger” is guaranteed to delight audiences." --Chris Curcio, KBAQ (click here to read the complete review)

COMING SOON -Jennifer Haaland, Examiner.com (click here to read the complete review)

 "...“The Toxic Avenger” is...a comic-bookish satire about a mealy-mouthed nerd transformed into a pustulant green anti-superhero....The show is packed with shameless stereotypes, lowbrow punch lines and outrageous sight gags. It’s also pretty freaking awesome — at least one time around, although it probably wouldn’t hold up to multiple viewings.....Scenic designer Beowulf Boritt has re-created his ingenious set from the off-Broadway production...musical director Jeff Kennedy leads a rocking ensemble....Director Michael Barnard keeps the laughs rolling, and he has assembled a stellar cast that showcases the depth of the Valley’s talent pool....The singing is great, the comic timing is spot on, and the whole thing is a blast. It is also a fairly forgettable feast of empty calories.... guaranteed to give your abs a workout from laughing.   Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)

"Big TENS all around for THE TOXIC AVENGER, now burning up the stage of Phoenix Theatre and oozing with absolutely intoxicating performances and spectacular staging....Michael Barnard...has concocted a mind-blowing brew of crew and cast ~ Caleb Reese, Johanna Carlisle, Trisha Ditsworth, Nathaniel Lewis Tenenbaum, and Lucas Coatney ~ that bubbles and excites long after the show's end....Even if you're unfamiliar with the B-movie genre and the film from which the musical was derived, you'll inevitably burst with heavy chuckles....Caleb Reese is magnificent as Melvin/Toxie. ....Trisha Ditsworth is terrific as Sarah. Her versatility and comic sensibility is fully on display...Johanna Carlisle is awesome and can belt out a song as good as it gets. Hers is a knock-your-socks off performance, both as the town's corrupt and salacious mayor and as Melvin's mother. ...Nathaniel Lewis Tenenbaum and Lucas Coatney are hilarious as they play multiple roles ~ goons, cops, showgirls, etc....This musical feast is deliciously seasoned with Beowulf Boritt's brilliant set design; David Woolard's costumes; and Louis Zakarian's masks and prosthetics. Jeff Kennedy's zestful musical direction rocks the house and infuses the music and lyrics of David Bryan and Joe diPietro with electrifying energy. Phoenix Theatre's Southwest Regional Premiere of THE TOXIC AVENGER is a powerhouse of a production. "  -Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

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