Tara’s Informal Guide to Gainesville Theatre: The Toxic Avenger
I walked into the theatre and knew I was about to see something special, or, at least, really different. The usually quaint Mainstage was unrecognizable underneath smears of green slime across the floor and stacks of steel barrels. A chain link fence topped with barbed wire loomed in the background, and above it all in green backlit block letters, the word TROMAVILLE.
Then the first musical number started and had me laughing within the first five seconds and I realized, yes, I’m going to see a show that is both special and different.
Two guys introduce the story set to the backdrop of a now-radioactive New Jersey. The actors return, guiding the action through an array of ridiculous supporting characters, encompassing anyone from Hispanic hairstylists to town bullies. These bullies dump Melvin, Tromaville’s Resident Nerd, into a vat of radioactive waste. Melvin Ferd the Third, the perfect mix of ambitious and tired of his present situation to make a change, resolves to save New Jersey. He’s also hopelessly pursuing a blind librarian named Sarah. Mayor Babs Belgoody, a corrupt politician, can’t have anything, even a small threat like Melvin, upturn her empire of smoke and mirrors. She signed off on allowing her city, Tromaville, to become a dumping ground for waste. Melvin reemerges from the gook as the muscular, heroic, and slimy Toxic Avenger. His new look ultimately helps him on both fronts of saving the city and getting Sarah’s attention.
All of this is set to music, for it is a musical. The musical numbers aren’t above spoofing genres, story formulas, and even the characters singing them. At the same time, the show somehow packs at least five showstoppers within two acts, including one that involves Mayor Babs and Melvin’s mother duking it out in a duet. Which is funny because the same actress plays both characters.
In the skeleton of has-been New Jersey, I mean, The Hippodrome Theatre’s Mainstage, is where the drama of The Toxic Avenger’s mission unfolds. The show is so much fun, and so well done, that it is easy to forget you are in Downtown Gainesville. It’s almost as if they took the same ridiculous humor from the movie Airplane and moved it to New Jersey.
You’re first introduced to the actors through their awesome voices, and then you fall in love with them through their completely convincing comedic performances. The cast is almost entirely composed of actors who are all thrilled to be making their Hippodrome debut, according to the program bios. I didn’t realize how many different places the talent came from at the time, but I felt an infectious energy while I watched that everyone was excited to be there. I was so happy to see each one of them perform, whether they were playing one person or twenty different characters. This was reinforced by the audience, frequently laughing, or the guy behind me that kept gushing, “they’re so good,” at the beginning of Act Two.
I’m not even going to lie, I’m probably going to see this show again. And for someone who has been told she’s funny a few too many times and now considers herself a comedy authority, I recommend this show to you too, over and over.
Tickets for The Toxic Avenger can be purchased on The Hippodrome’s website, or by calling their box office at (352) 375-4477.