It’s rare to be the first of something. The Aloha Performing Arts Company gets that privilege this month, when it performs “The Toxic Avenger Musical,” a crass, yet fun horror comedy featuring an unlikely ultradeformed environmental hero.
APAC is the first nonprofessional theater to be granted the performance rights to the hard-driving rock ‘n’ roll musical, which is loosely based on a low-brow, low-budget ’80s movie with quite the cult following. This likely will be the last community theater production of the musical before the producers revamp it and take it to Broadway as soon as next year, said Jerry Tracy, APAC artistic director and the show’s director.
“It still seems like a fluke. I can’t believe it’s happening,” he said. “We’re all very excited and honored to perform this show.”
APAC first learned about the off-Broadway show from Sue Boyum, who had read a wonderful review about it in a magazine. It was being performed at Gotham’s New World Stages in New York. Luckily, Dale Ross was headed there on vacation and offered to see the show. She and her family came back raving, Tracy said. For APAC’s show, Ross is the music director and leads a live rock band, while Boyum is the vocal director and plays three roles, he added.
Sam Valenti, APAC operations director, went on a quest to get the performance rights from Music Theatre International, a licensing agency. But there were no published scripts for distribution. Still, Valenti’s tenacity remained steady. Not discouraged, Valenti called the show’s producer, Tom Polum, who was “enchanted that a small theater in the Pacific had the gall to call, an enterprising spirit and the want and ingenuity to just go for it.” APAC got Polum’s blessing and the performing rights were released, Tracy said.
Electronic copies of the script and scores were sent, which APAC reproduced. APAC pays royalties to bring shows here and usually has to rent the scripts and scores. Because it was able to reproduce the materials, the expense was less, he added.
Tracy said the schlocky original Lloyd Kaufman film was known for having a huge amount of pornography and violence. While APAC’s version is toned down, it still contains very adult-themed material and raw language.
For adults wanting to see the show without their children, APAC is offering a play group for 3- to 11-year-old children on opening night, Oct. 14, and closing night. Aloha Teen Theatre and an adult supervisor will provide games and other activities. The cost is $20 for one child, $30 for two children and $35 for three children. Reservations are required, Valenti said.
Tracy thinks audiences will find the approximately 90-minute show charming, winningly hokey and outrageous. “The Toxic Avenger Musical” is about a lovable-loser turned hero who rises above the odds to save his town and get the girl. Basically, help comes to the fictional dregs of Tromaville in the form of a hideous mutant named Toxie. A greedy, profiteering mayor was turning the New Jersey town into a big toxic waste dump — something a blind librarian, Sarah, learns when hired to keep records secret. Her nerdy, aspiring earth scientist love interest, Melvin Ferd the Third, vows to stop the corruption, but gets dumped into a vat of smoking toxic goo instead. He emerges hideously deformed and green-skinned with a sagging, inflated, pus-filled face. On the positive side, he ends up taller with enormous strength and ripping muscles. Melvin becomes Toxie, and yes, there’s a rampage, complete with polluters’ limbs being ripped off and body parts being deep-fried. But his crazy violent stint doesn’t last, and his big heart prevails.
Also adding to the “rollicking good time” and “brutal dismemberment funniness” are the comic-esque set pieces, makeup, costumes and props; the abundance of hard-driving ballads and hair-band licks; as well as “lightning fast character changes and astonishing transformations done” by the “talented, very sharp” six-member cast, Tracy said.
The actors are Boyum, Valenti, Binti Bailey, Johnny Gomez, Sara Hagen and Miguel Montez.
Valenti is tackling 13 different characters, of which three are women, and he has to die twice. He said it’s been fun and challenging trying to keep all the costumes and characters straight, as well as developing different personalities and mannerisms. He thinks the experience has helped him stretch and grow as an actor. The best part, he added, is doing a show with his best friends.
As a high school student, Montez saw the original film, which was “one of those corny, bad B-movies that’s so bad that it’s kind of good.”
Montez, APAC’s board president, said it’s amazing APAC got to produce the musical in “its metamorphosis stage” before it hits Broadway. In the show, Gomez plays Melvin until he gets sludged, and then Montez takes over as “the powerful, yet still awkward and timid” Toxie — a role he prepared for with lots of practice in a mirror and drew inspiration from superhero movies. Montez said he and Gomez worked together to create character commonalities and cohesion.
Whether familiar with the story or not, Montez hopes the public will come see the show, support the local performing arts community, as well as celebrate and experience theater. “We can’t do what we do without them,” he said. “By coming, you may see something unexpected, be pleasantly surprised and have a fun time watching the hilarious antics of this comic fable/horror flick spoof.”
APAC will present “The Toxic Avenger Musical” today, Oct. 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19 and 20 at Aloha Theatre in Kainaliu. It begins at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets cost $20 for adults, $17 for seniors and young adults, $10 for children ages 4 to 17, and free for children under age 4. Call 322-9924 or visit apachawaii.org.