Do you remember hearing about that Musical Theater orgy between Little Shop of Horrors, Urinetown, and Hairspray that happened at a Bruce Springsteen concert? Well, probably not, mostly because I made it up just now as an illustrative device, but also because last time I checked (and I check often) Musical Theater pieces can’t actually make out let alone do the nasty. But, the alternative fact of the matter is, that this bizarre alleged occurrence resulted in very fortunate-at-least-for-me consequence. That’s right; a new musical was born just 242 months later (the proper gestation period for an illegitimate bastard musical) and that musical is The Toxic Avenger, currently playing at the San Jose Stage Company.
Now, here is a list of things that are inherently funny to me.
- Any lyric that rhymes cranium
- Costume quick changes
- Blind librarians
- Making your own sound effects
- Politically incorrect jokes
- New Jersey
- Jackets with fringe
- Really campy special effects
- Making fun of art forms with the actual art forms you are making fun of
- Extremely geeky video game references
- When something goes wrong on stage and actors nearly crack up but then keep going and/or improvise
- Gratuitous displays of machismo or physical prowess
This also happens to be a list of things that The Toxic Avenger has. This play and production oozes thick campy goodness (way better than the movie, or at least what I remember of it) that infects the crowd in such a lovely, goofy and uninhibited way. It was so easy to love. So easy. Like I was a slut for this show and if you know me, well…the red hair is totally misleading, a red-herring if you will, which is to say I don’t get down for just any show. You won’t see me at any musical theater orgy. If that were even a thing. Which I already said it wasn’t. But I digress. It didn’t try to be anything it wasn’t and what’s more it’s so at home with these skilled actors and talented band at the Stage. It felt fun and free and like it could run every day for months and still feel fresh and enjoyable.
I’ve seen 3 of these actors frequently over the years and I can say 2 of them put on the best performance I have ever seen them do. Other actors that ever have to play these roles can suck it because they were perfect and you can’t improve perfection. The other one is pretty much always great, but certainly this show has some additional requirements from the stamina standpoint there are met with flying colors. The other two actors I had never seen before and I would marry them/hire them to hang out at my cube at work just for the hell of it in a New York… sorry New Jersey Mutant, sorry, minute. True, I can only pay them in sugar-free candy of indeterminate age that I find in miscellaneous work cabinets, but they seem like they’d be up for it for arts sake. They’d be guaranteed applause and I know that pays the bills, so, the offer is out there, you know, if this doesn’t work out.
Comedy is hard (no really, it is…wait.. not like that, get your mind out of the gutter!) and while it’s clear the talent was a natural, phenomenal fit to the material, there was intentional, creative, thoughtful staging and choreography that really elevated the production. This show is not a throw away, the songs are difficult and the timing has to be spot on and I think it was very clear just how much of a collaborative effort this was and how much of a difference that made.
I’d also like to thank whoever decided to do a show with an intermission. I needed time to breathe from the laughing. I would also recommend trying the special My Big French Boyfriend being served at the bar. You only need one, and not on an empty stomach.
My only challenge was it’s a relatively small space and this is a loud show. The balance made it hard to hear the words at times, but overall the tech was up to spec and while not all the music was my style or even all the notes nailed, the humor most certainly was classic Princess and executed superbly!
To be totally honest I thought I was on a bit of a break with the Stage. The majority of this past season hasn’t totally impressed me and I felt like I was falling out of synch with their ultimate trajectory. The memories of the good times were being overshadowed by depressing, confusing and less entertaining memories and I had been seriously considering re-evaluating my relationship. I hadn’t planned on doing a review for this show at all, but, just like our freaking puck-tease hockey team, all it takes is a performance like this to suck me right back in to the happy place. This show was so in their wheel house in every aspect of the production, it felt like make up sex. I’m assuming. I’ve been told that stuff is awesome. This was my favorite San Jose Stage production since The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity in October of 2013 which I still smile about.
IN SUMMARY! This is a hilarious production. A fun, fun, fun, fun and did I mention fun night out. Go. The Toxic Avenger (I hardly know her) gets a ridiculously joyous 4 3/4 jewels out of 5 in the review tiara for a show that just lets you laugh, and groan, and cheer and gasp over really ludicrous things. Be pro ludicrous, see this show. The Toxic Avenger plays through July 23rd at The Stage in downtown San Jose.