Review: Superhero+ Badass+ Lover=The Toxic Avenger

March 3rd, 2016

Superhero + Badass + Lover = The Toxic Avenger

 by Travis S. Tayler
March 2, 2016
I’ve seen The Toxic Avenger at Horizon Theatre THREE TIMES already! And will very likely go see it again.

I’d seen all five of the stars in other performances last year, so I knew it was going to be phenomenal. This quintet masters more than 30 costume changes during the show, performing more characters than I could count. It’s a fast-paced, raucous musical comedy that anyone with a sense of humor will absolutely love.

Julissa Sabino and Nick Arapoglou, Photo by Amanda Cantrell
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre

The Toxic Avenger is based on the 1984 cult classic movie of the same name. The film was wholly ignored by the Academy, however the stage version won an Outer Critics Circle Award for “Best Off-Broadway Musical“!

The show is about a nerdy-geek (I can relate) who is in love with a beautiful blind librarian. When he announces that he will save the city from a growing toxic waste problem, she totally falls for him. Later, the song “Thank God She’s Blind”…well, just look at what happened to him when a government official’s nincompoop puppets drop the ball…rather, drop him into a vat of toxic waste! He’s not entirely disappointed with the results.

Nick Arapoglou and Julissa Sabino, Photo by Amanda Cantrell
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre

The song list alone speaks to the fun that is this show. Songs like “Kick Your Ass”, “My Big French Boyfriend”, and “All Men Are Freaks” are hilarious and fantastic, but nothing compares to “Bitch/Slut/Liar/Whore”, a rapid-fire lyrical battle between Melvin’s motherAND the Mayor of Tromaville—who are BOTH performed by the amazing Leslie Bellair. This is perhaps my favorite scene of the show!

How can two characters performed by one actress be on stage at the same time, you ask? Brilliantly! That’s how. This you must see live and in persons!

Austin Tijerina, Julissa Sabino, Michael Stiggers, Photo by Amanda Cantrell
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre
I attended the pre-opening Sneak Peek at which we got to meet the cast, the crew and all of the theatre staff…what a magnificent, insightful treat that was!

I’d seen Nick Arapoglou (Melvin/Toxie) and Leslie Bellair (Mayor/Ma/Nun) last year inAvenue Q, the first time I’d ever seen that show…they were fantastic and both won Suzi Bass Awards for their respective roles in that show!

I saw Julissa Sabino (Sarah), Michael Stiggers (Black Dude) and Austin Tijerina(White Dude, and holder of at least two Suzi Bass Awards) all three in Rent last year at Actor’s Express. I’d seen the movie a number of times, but that was the first time I’d seen a stage performance of Rent…it too was amazing!

I was super excited to learn that The Toxic Avenger was by Joe DiPietro (book and lyrics) and David Bryan (music and lyrics), the same guys who brought us Memphis, which I saw at Aurora Theatre last year. The two shows are not even distant cousins, but I love each for what they are and the theatrical mastery they bring to the stage.

The third time I saw The Toxic Avenger, Julissa (Sarah) had taken ill, so her understudy was standing in. Actress Rose Alexander was brilliant! That was the first time I’d seen her perform, but I hope not the last.

Nick Arapoglou, Leslie Bellair, Photo by Amanda Cantrell
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre
I’m totally a huge fan of Nick Arapoglou and Leslie Bellair. Having seen them perform together in Avenue Q was awesome enough, but in The Toxic Avenger, they went to a whole other dimension…fun, vengeful and lovable.

Lislie said, quite modestly, during the Sneak Peek event that this was the first role where she was tasked with playing “sexy”. As Melvin’s mother, if the Golden Girls is what gets your motor running, she nailed it. And as the Mayor of Tromaville, she’s totally smokin’ hot! I mean that respectfully, Leslie. In fact, I would venture to say that there’s not a role you couldn’t perform brilliantly!

Michael Stiggers, Nick Arapoglou, Austin Tijerina
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre
Nick’s transformation from Melvin to Toxie is lightening-fast! The costume designers,Isabel Curley-Clay and Moriah Curley-Clay, who are also scenic designers, we got to meet during the Sneak Peek event. You figure out pretty quickly why they’ve received four Suzi Bass Awards!

Nick Arapoglou and Julissa Sabino, Photo by Amanda Cantrell
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre
Surprisingly, many aspects of this ooey, gooey, eyeball-won’t-stay-in-its-socket superhero story are true to life…people who care about the environment, corrupt government, egotistical criminals, a disappointed parent, a sex-crazed doctor and a published author wannabe included! Most of all, it’s totally a love story! I think you’re going to fall in love with this show and many of its characters.

Sluggo (Micheal Stiggers) and Bozo (Austin Tijerina), by Greg Mooney with Daryl Fazio
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre
Michael Stiggers, “Black Dude”, and Austin Tijerina, “White Dude”—seriously, those are their character’s names in the program—are constantly in and out of costume, all over the set and a different character seemingly every other minute. To name a few, these two alone portray thugs, a folk singer, a doctor, illiterates, and salon technicians. They’re awesome!
Jaquetta, Toxie, Nikki | The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre
Jaquetta, Toxie, Nikki | The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre | Photo by: Travis S. Taylor

I love getting to meet the actors as much as I love seeing them perform. Following the show, theatre-goers are invited to stick around to meet the cast and make photos with them! When was the last time you had your photo made with a superhero?

One of the times I saw the show, four friends joined me…it was a laugh-fest! Jaquetta(above left) and Nikki (above right) posed with Toxie, and friends Cameron and Jameswere along, too. Yes, that’s a Doctor Who phone case in Nikki’s hand…she’s a fellow sci-fi enthusiast!

The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre | Photo by: Travis S. Taylor
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre | Photo by: Travis S. Taylor

On another visit, my best friend Barry came along. We’ve seen a lot of shows together at Horizon Theatre and we love this one, too! Pictured with Barry is ‘Ma‘, Melvin’s mother (above left, performed by Leslie Bellair) and ‘the cop‘ (above right, performed by Austin Tijerina).

The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre | Photo by: Travis S. Taylor
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre | Photo by: Travis S. Taylor
I am so beyond impressed with this production…the actors, the set design, lighting, choreography…everything about it makes for a super fun evening out. I highly, highly recommend this show! The run wraps up on Sunday, March 13, so don’t waste time…get your tickets here and go see how to save a city and fall in love at the same time!

A pre-show dinner recommendation: Each time I’ve been to see The Toxic Avenger, I and friends have dined at the recently opened El Bandido Mex Mex Grill…I personally have been SIX times already! It’s that amazing and it’s very close to the theatre. Their calamari is some of the best I’ve ever had!

Up next at Horizon Theatre: Sex With Strangers! No, no, it’s (probably) not what you’re thinking, but it is provocative! Check it out at Horizon starting April 1…no joke!