The Joys of Trashing Jersey


If you're in search of a theatrical experience that stands the chance of moving you in a significant way, then go see the current revivals of Our Town or The Norman Conquests. If, on the other hand, you just want to sit back and laugh at the expense of The Garden State, then The Toxic Avenger: The Musical may be what you're looking for.

Falling in the category of "they made a musical out of that?," The Toxic Avenger follows in the footsteps of a long list of odd, musical adaptations seeking to recapture the camp and success of Little Shop of Horrors. While it does not hit that mark, it comes closer than many that have come before it.

You most likely won't leave the theater humming these songs, but they are quick and fun to listen to while you're there. The book runs in the same vein, landing a joke one minute and then not the next, with a lot of near misses in between. The material is so-so. Cheap shots at Jersey and politically incorrect blindness jokes can only be funny for so long, so it is left to the cast to pick up the slack, which they do, to varying degrees.

Demond Green (Black Dude) gives a standout performance, offering defining comic touches to a series of absurd cameo rolls. He clearly loves the lights of the stage and they love him back as he struts the boards in a progression of different wigs and costumes. Green is at his best when in high heels. Nancy Opel (Mayor Babs/Ma Ferd) is also possessed with energy to entertain, so much so that she borders on the manic. Sara Chase (Sarah) seems trapped in the one-note-joke of her character: she's hot and blind. She plays this to the hilt but is given little else to work with.

John Rando's direction plays it fast and loose, erring on the side of sloppiness at times. Opel's climax comes when the script calls for her to play two parts simultaneously, and while no one could accuse her of not sweating to make it happen, the staging of this comic device gives it an amateurish tint. The key to quality camp lies in the complete commitment to the act, and Rando spends a little too much time winking at the audience instead of playing it straight and allowing us to discover the comedy for ourselves. Beowulf Boritt provides an ideal combination of grim, gross, and good times in his scenic design. An army of well-arranged oil drums, balanced between a dismal reality and comic book fun, rotate, open, and fold to smoothly provide scenes for the play's many settings.

This is not a musical that you will tell you grandchildren about, but you might recommend it to a neighbor.