Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

The Toxic Avenger
Blank Canvas Theatre
Review by Mark Horning | Season Schedule

Patrick Ciamacco
Photo by Andy Dudik
Summer is the season of whimsy, and nothing reflects this better than the local theater scene. It is a time when popular farcical productions are staged much to the delight of local audiences. To wit, the Blank Canvas Theatre production of The Toxic Avenger is on stage through July 27, 2019. the show features book and music by Joe Dipietro with music and lyrics by David Bryan and is based on the 1984 film of the same name.

Hapless Melvin Ferd the Third (Pat Miller) is a budding New Jersey earth scientist who has become alarmed at the amount of pollution that is being dumped in his "Garden State." The nerdy crusader wants to do something to change all of that. While visiting the secret love of his life Sarah (Madeline Krucek), who is blind and runs Tromaville's local library, he finds a cache of town records that implicate Mayor Babs Belgoody (Leslie Andrews) as the head of the company that is bringing vats of toxic goo to their town.

Melvin confronts the mayor, who first tries to seduce him but then makes him her deputy. After the naive youngster leaves, she orders her henchmen, Sluggo (Noah Hrbek) and Bozo (Sydney Smith), to "Get the Geek." They hunt down Melvin and toss him into a vat of toxic waste as Sarah comes on the scene. As they taunt Sarah, forcing her to faint, a huge, green, misshapen monster climbs out of the vat and, after ripping off each goon's arm and removing various internal body parts, kills them.

This live action cartoon is just the thing for a hot summer night. Director Molly Claassen gives the cast free rein to be as silly as they want to be. The humor is broad, loud, and in your face. What makes this show such a delight is that half of the six-member cast play a total of nearly 20 roles with constant costume changes. At one point Leslie Andrews plays Mayor Babs and Ma Ferd simultaneously, making split-second costume changes until she finally appears half and half, turning the current character toward the audience.

Patrick Ciamacco normally billed as the artistic director of Blank Canvas, is a wonderful surprise as the singing "Toxie." His deep tenor voice delights. Madeline Krucek as the blind librarian Sarah plays it all for laughs as she stumbles her way around the stage. Leslie Andrews as Mayor Babs, Ma Ferd, and The Nun is an absolute hoot with a slew of wild costume changes. The same goes for Noah Hrbek and Sydney Smith, who are equally frenetic with backstage costume changes that happen with rapid frequency throughout the show.

There is also a really great five-piece band that includes Rachel Woods (keyboards and conductor, Trevor Matthews (guitar), Sam Kitzler (bass), Christina Cruder (reeds), and Taylor Pohug (drums). They fill the small space with fantastic music without drowning out the singers.

As is the tradition with Blank Canvas, the front rows of yellow seats are in the splash zone for those who delight in having "toxic waste," "bleach," "squirting eyeballs" and "raccoon pee" sprayed in their general direction. Although "adultish" in parts, this would still be a safe bet to bring teen and older family members for a night of toxic song, dance and laughs.

Sometimes theater lets its hair down and does it just for giggles. The Toxic Avenger is pure farce, with some witty songs. It reflects on environmental issues in a very tongue-in-cheek way. It will "Kick Your Ass."

The Toxic Avenger, through July 27, 2019, at Blank Canvas Theatre, 78th Street Studios Complex, 1300 W. 78th Street, Cleveland OH. Tickets are available online at

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