By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Evil Dead the Musical
Oct 30-31, 2015
Toxic Avenger the Musical
Renton Civic Theatre
December 26, 2015
Alberta Rose Theatre
January 2, 2016
on Granville Island
Feb 5 and 6, 2016
Returning to Vancouver, BC this Halloween is Evil Dead the Musical, and hot on their tail is The Toxic Avenger the Musical. Both shows, if it was back to back, would have been duking it out at the Waterfront Theatre instead of Studio 1338! A change in plan will have Toxie appear next year and with a bigger venue, the team of Last Chance Productions promises more fun to pop up. This crew performed Young Frankenstein and Cannibal! the Musical in the past. For the holidays, they are giving fans new content as they tour the Pacific Northwest during the holidays.
Fans of Troma who have not seen this production can see what’s changed. The plot of this stage version does not entirely follow the film. It takes the best moments from it and has fun with the tropes.
“The movie has its own cult following, and people should be aware that the musical changed things around,” revealed Chance Newman, director and producer. “There’s two performers who play 20 parts each, and it’s going to be manic.”
One of the songs performed is self-referential. “B*tch/S***/Liar/Whore” will have audiences do a double take. The actress is having a battle with herself in a duet. Is that possible? In reference to the 70’s TV show, That’s impossible! probably not. Stevie Wayne plays the mayor and mother to Toxie in the same scene, and Newman believes this moment will be outrageously funny. This show also features the talents of Sebastian Haff as Melvin Ferd/Toxie Avenger; Stacey Dee as Sarah; Collin Claypool as random dudes and Deb Lundy for the rest of the gang.
This group saw this production when they were in Houston, Texas at the Alley Theatre and decided that this has to be the next show to put on. While they never tire of playing their small repertoire of shows, to figure out which horror-musical to do next is always good. They are avid followers of this musical since 2011, and Troma’s film for even longer.
Newman’s ensemble cast know their material inside out and this director knows his team are very well-versed to make the magic happen. They can multitask, and the only character who does not play a dual role in Toxic Avenger the Musical is Sarah, the heroine. She’s the blind librarian. As for how she gets work done, out, well, this director says you have to come see it.
With this director’s experience in putting on Haunted House attractions during the Halloween season, moving the intimacy from a hands-on experience to that of a stage show makes no difference. The experience is the same. With his background added on top of his knowledge of the horror genre from film studies and in helping his mother out in her musical productions back home, moving onwards and upwards to produce live performances is evolution in action.
“I think that the music [from Toxic Avenger the Musical] is outstanding and when we find ourselves singing these songs for 3 years running, that’s incredibly satisfying when you know that you can share that with other people,” said Newman. “To see them hear it for the first time is a joy.
“I’m a big superhero fan like so many folks are. The idea of Frankenstein’s monster as a Jason (Friday the 13th) kind of character slammed into a superhero form is pretty fun,” noted Newman.
Joe DiPietro wrote the original Broadway production and David Bryan composed the music. Both worked on the lyrics to this production that Newman describes as having that New Jersey (Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen) sound. For instance, there’s this folk singer who will come in, playing the acoustic guitar, and he has a loud voice to pull off being The Boss when he sings “The Legend of the Toxic Avenger.”
With only five members in this cast, they have the chops to pull off different kind of harmonies and with the many costume changes in store to play bit parts, this producer promises that this show will be very fast paced. The performers will race in and out of the stage to deliver one line bits. And any mix-up will be intentional. It may have the same manic pace like the Reduced Shakespeare Company play when they blaze through the lines in less than a minute.
“In my opinion, that’s where the fun is,” said Newman. “There’s a lot to take in because its moving so quickly. It’s melodramatic. The interaction of the characters as they switch between various costume is a special effect in itself.”
This team also created many of the props and prosthetics that will be the set. That includes the toxic waste barrels (Newman did not mention if they will glow or not, but its a safe bet they will) which will comprise most of the set and how the hero transforms. Everything’s made from the ground up and it’s more movie-like than simply made items that may not be transportable when this show hits the road. He promises that there will be cool lighting and fog effects to thrill audiences.
“I love the look and feel that’s presented in the old horror films of Universal‘s. They are my favourite. All the splatter stuff of the 80’s was also a very big thing to me, ” admitted Newman, who graduated with a degree in film studies.
When considering how much fun they have in Evil Dead the Musical with the splatter effects (They seven blends to intoxicate audiences with), sadly no thoughts of having something similar in the Avenger musical was considered. When an outdoor show can be put on, this team will go hog-wild with the splatter. At the time of writing, nothing’s planned for this show set in New Jersey.
“We wanted something that’s a bit more closer to the film,” noted Newman. “We’re fans of the film and wanted to be respectful to that.
“We didn’t change this production much. That happens from time to time when, for whatever reason, you realize you don’t have the right tools to pull off that effect. For example, Young Frankenstein is so perfect in the way it’s put together. We had some debate over the line, ‘Flying down to Rio’ or when the Monster tried to get into a charades game. Those bits got the biggest laughs because that’s how Mel Brooks wrote it. We pretty much stick with what we saw.
“However, the original version on Broadway was a one-act play. Ours is a two-act version and there’s a couple of new songs. There’s a James Bond style diddly called Disappointment, and another that’s a Villager March style song called Till the Monster’s Dead. They’re nice additions,” revealed Newman.
These changes may have been installed to reflect more of the film’s narrative, especially the latter, and fans will no doubt welcome them. Lloyd Kaufman, the creator of Toxic Avenger approves. Other productions have even brought him out to present the show or attend the dress rehearsals. But that can only happen if the theatre troupe has the budget. “They invited me to Oahu, Hawaii; Toronto, Ontario and Houston, Texas,” said Kaufman.
Newman probably missed meeting Kaufman opening night and to imagine them working together can only mean spectacular mutations can occur. The cheerleader for Troma Entertainment appreciates the fact that his creations are engrained in pop culture in different ways.
“This show played in about 15 cities now and I’m happy to hear it’s coming to the Pacific Northwest. I wish this crew the best,” smiled Kaufman.
One thought on “Last Chance Productions Gets Toxic with Evil Dead in the Pacific Northwest!”
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