Photo by Erin Evangeline / Phoenix Theatre
"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)