The Toxic Avenger. The Musical. The Beginning.

As everyone in theatre knows, the off-Broadway musical is dead.

So I decided to write one.

A couple of years ago-ish, a producer by the name of Jean Cheever excitedly called me and said she had obtained the rights to a classic cult film. Now, I get calls all the time from producers with a “hey, let’s turn this movie into a musical” idea. To be honest, most of these ideas strike me as unbelievably terrible uninteresting, but Jean is a friend so I laughed knowingly and asked, “What movie?”

“The Toxic Avenger” was the magical title that floated out of her mouth.

For those of you who didn’t happen to catch the film in 1986 because you weren’t a drunken teenager were busy, The Toxic Avenger tells the tale of the most polluted town in New Jersey and the hapless young man who is thrown into a vat of toxic good and emerges a large mutant freak who proceeds to save the state by mauling polluters. (Bonus Theatre Trivia: Sondheim has been trying to turn this into a musical for years but could never “crack” it.)

Now, having been a drunken teenager cinephile in 1986, I had nothing but fond memories of the film, made by the mad auteur Lloyd Kaufman. So I immediately told Jean, “I’m in..”

“And to write the music,” I cockily added, “how about one of the guys from the ultimate New Jersey band, Bon Jovi?”
“Sounds great,” Jean said, audibly savlivating, “but how could we ever get to them?”
I again laughed knowingly and hung up.

Now several years ago, I happened to be looking for a composer to colloborate on a new rock ‘n roll musical called “Memphis.” My agent told me that he knew Joe Jackson’s manager (jackpot!) and he would send it out, certain that Joe would be interested. And about three months later, I received a call, but not from Joe.

“Hey,” the unknown voice muttered, “this is David Bryan, I’m the keyboardist for Bon Jovi and I’d like to know how I can write the score to Memphis.”

All right, full confession — rock stars don’t usually call me, but I was able to pull myself together enough to chat and I suggested that he pick out a lyric (I had written some first-draft lyrics in the script) and write a tune and send it to me. He readily agreed (are all rock stars this agreeable?) and two days later, a CD was FedExed to me. David had selected a lyric called, “Music of My Soul” and the man had written a song that was theatrical, rockin’ and, well, freakin’ fantastic. “Please God,” I silently prayed, “let him not be crazy.” And hallelujah, he wasn’t.

So David and I wrote “Memphis” and quickly became fast friends and partners. (Please note: by partners, I mean writing partners. David is straight and has a fantastic fiancee and three great kids. I’m gay and sleep with my dog.) “Memphis,” I’m happy to report, just had two kickin’ productions at LaJolla Playhouse and Seattle Fifth Avenue and may even be heading to New York in the very near future — but that’s another blog. Stay tuned.

Back to Toxic. So I called up David.
“David,” I said, “remember that flick, The Toxic Avenger?”
“Oh yeah,” he said, “it was about, like, a monster and New Jersey or something? And there’s a blind chick and lots of people get ripped apart or something. I remember seeing it when I was drunk.”
“Exactly. How’d you like to turn it into a musical?”
“Love it,” he responded, “I’m in.”

And thus was born The Toxic Avenger musical. We begin rehearsals in the musical graveyard artisic firmament known as off-Broadway on Tuesday, February 24th and we open in less than six weeks. This daily blog will chronicle our journey from rehearsals to previews to the oh-God-please-let-them-like-it opening night on April 6th.

So why am I writing this blog, you ask? Well, to sell tickets, I answer. But more importantly, I’m planning on giving you a no-holds-barred, in-depth peek into the process by which a musical is made. All the singing and dancing and rewriting. All the artistic arguments and bitter compromises. Yes, folks, we’re making a musical. Nerves will be frayed, feelings will be hurt, and careers will be made or squashed. All in an effort to entertain you for ninety minutes of your life.

But it’s a musical. And I love the art form. And I love The Toxic Avenger. And I hope you’ll love it, too.

On Tuesday, I’ll report on the first day of rehearsals when the actors will be learning the music and I will have a total crisis of faith in my talent.

With undying love,
Joe

The First Day of Rehearsal. There is Joy in the Air.

Ah, the first day of rehearsal of a new musical!

It is a day full of joy and hope, a day full of terror and fear. It is a day when the jokes still seem funny, the songs still seem fresh, and the authors still seem wise. It is my favorite day.

We’re rehearsing on the stage at our theatre, the lovely New World Stages. Now, most shows start their rehearsal process in a rehearsal room because their set hasn’t been built yet. But since we are retaining our set from our debut out-of-town production, that sucker is built and up and ready to go. And it looks spectacular, which is amazing when you consider that the show takes place in a toxic waste dump in New Jersey (which, of course, is also the setting of most classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals.) Its spectacularness is due mainly to our young, talented set designer, Beowulf Borrit. Of course, when your parents name you Beowulf, you have two choices in life — you can either become a theatre designer or an epic poem. Fortunately for us, Beowulf chose theatre designer. His set rocks.

On this first day of rehearsal (my favorite day! my favorite day!) the actors are learning the music. In a rather remarkable demonstration, David Bryan is singing the entire score (men’s parts, women’s parts, duets) in order to show exactly how he’d like it sung. It should also be pointed out that David is able to sing ridiculously high notes first thing in the morning, so everyone’s a bit stunned. But the actors are all nodding their heads politely and then matching him wail for wail. It’s pretty cool.

And while they’re doing that, I am sitting off to the side, feeling unloved and bored. I mean, while David and the cast are singing their hearts out, not one person is actually focusing on the ALL-IMPORTANT DIALOGUE in the show. Sure, I suppose “learning the songs” is important for a musical, but still, I feel ignored. So I’m blogging instead. Which at least gives me a chance to tell you how we got to this theatrical temple known as “New World.”

David and I finished the first draft of Toxic about a year and half-ish ago. And the first thing you do when you’ve finished a musical is “a reading.” Now a reading consists of renting a rehearsal space and hiring actors and musicians who learn your show. They only have 20 hours to rehearse (or else Actor’s Equity will find you and beat you,) and after this brief process, they present your show to a small gathering of your closest and most judgemental friends.

Now after you do your reading, you realize one of three things —
A) Your show sucks so you just wasted two years of your life writing it
B) Your show is okay but it still needs a lot of work
C) You show is actually pretty good and it’s time to find a theatre

In my humble experience, Option “C” rarely happens. But miraculously, the group of jaded, judgmental friends who experienced Toxic for the first time liked what they saw. They laughed. A lot. They applauded. A lot. Hell, they freakin’ loved it.

Emboldened by our good forture, we wondered where to take Toxic next. Well, since it takes place in the most polluted town in New Jersey and its full of cruel New Jersey jokes, how about New Jersey? And what better theatre is there in New Jersey than George Street Playhouse, adjacent to Rutgers University which is full of students who, we reasoned, would dig this show. So our fearless producers sent the script and demo CD to David Saint, the head honcho at George Street, who called and said it was the funniest script of a new musical he had ever read (God love this handsome, wise man) and he wanted the show to kick off th his ’08/’09 season. Eurkea, we were in. To celebrate, David and I immediately went out and drank way too much champagne had a nice dinner.

So this past autumn, we debuted at George Street and damn it if we didn’t become their biggest musical hit ever. And though we suspected that the young, hip, slightly stoned Rutgers students would like the show, we were delighted and surprised when Toxic was heartily embraced by the bread and butter audience of regional theatres — senior citizens! Every performance, David and I would move aside rows of walkers to get to our seats. And those mutant-lovin’ seniors went nuts for the antics of Toxie and friends.

Perhaps, though, the show’s greatest test came during the second performance. A blind woman came to the show and was seated in the first row, her large seeing-eye dog sprawled out at her feet. Why would that be a “test,” you ask. Well, I answer, in the show, our green hero falls in love with a blind librarian, so there are a couple a few a whole lot of blind jokes. I fully expected that the sure-to-be-offended blind woman would sick her dog on us. But no, it turns out she absolutely loved the show. And I, in turn, loved her.

So here we are in New York, baby, where shows come to make their mark or whither away into theatrical oblivion. Oh, now the actors are on a break from their music learning (yawn,) so I have to go and mingle. But tune in tomorrow, ’cause David is teaching the one and only Nancy Opel a new song we wrote especially for her — “Jersey Girl.” It’s the introductory song for one of her characters, Mayor Babs Belgoody — an incredibly ambitious politician who will do anything and say anything to get elected. She’s just like Sarah Palin, only not stupid.

Till then, your internet pal,
Joe

REHEARSAL DAY 2. ALL SINGIN’. ALL DANCIN’.

Sitting here in rehearsal with David, watching our powerhouse choreographer, Wendy Seyb, choreographing “Choose Me, Oprah,” which is sung by Sarah, the blind librarian, in an ode to the queen of all bookclubs. Sarah, you see, dreams of being a great and attractive writer and all she needs to become a gabillionaire is a guest spot on Oprah. As Sarah (played by Sara Chase) sings her heartfelt plea, her two best friends, Shinequa and Diane (played sparkingly by Demond Green and Matthew Saldivar) appear as her Tina Turner-esque, spangled-up back-up dancers. Hopefully, Oprah and her lawyers won’t be pissed. It’s a love letter, Oprah! As for Sara, Demond and Matthew — them is some funny people.

That’s the kind of day it’s been. Learning music and then putting it on its feet with lots o’ dancing (note to the caring world: no one has yet to go anywhere near a piece of dialogue in this show, says the unloved bookwriter. sigh.)

Earlier in the day, David and our resident musical director genius, Doug Katsaros, taught our newest song, “Jersey Girl,” to Nancy Opel (P.S. Yesterday I spelled Nancy’s name wrong and I’ve been living in shame ever since.) “Jersey Girl” is an introductory number for Nancy’s character, Mayor Babs Belgoody. Nancy actually plays three roles in the show, The Mayor, The Toxic Avenger’s exhausted mother, and, in the opening number, a New Jersey Nun. Now, I have to confess that the New Jersey Nun never appears after the opening number. In the original draft of the show, we had the New Jersey Nun meet an untimely death when she was cruelly run over by two thugs on a motorcycle. We’ve since cut that (we figured there’s never been a hit musical in which a nun gets cruelly run over by two thugs on a motorcycle.) So now the New Jersey Nun appears in the opening and then is never heard from again. If you feel that’s bad dramatugry, think Thelma Ritter in “All About Eve.” She plays Bette Davis’ wisecracking maid in an indelible performance and delivers zinger after zinger for half the movie and then, inexplicably, she disappears for the rest of the flick. And this is one of the best movies ever written! Where’d she go? Did she get another job? I don’t know. But if it’s good enough of “All About Eve … ” Anyway, that was an incredibly long tangent to justify the New Jersey Nun disappearing after the opening number. But she does (though if you need closure she got run over by a motorcycle.)

Anyway, we’ve now given Nancy’s Mayor a splashy entrance number in which she’s backed up by two New Jesery Waste Management Executives (played sparkingly by Demond Green and Matthew Saldivar.) It’s sort of a Mitz Gaynor/Cher tribute to a corrupt Jersey politician. Nancy, of course, rocked it. Nancy is the rare actor who is a comedy writer’s dream. If you give her a line to say and she can’t get a laugh with it, you know it’s not funny and its back to the drawing board. But if you give her something that’s actually witty, she’ll hit it out of the ballpark. God love her.

So I’ve just been told that we’re going to do a read through of the show tomorrow! That means that the actors will read the dialogue (!) and sing the songs and we’ll get our first real idea of what state the show is in. I am so petrified nauseous excited! (Note to self: have a few drinks tonight.) Till then —

Fondly, but with tasteful distance,
Joe

REHEARSAL DAY 3. WORDS ARE SPOKEN.

Once again, I messed up.

Okay, so yesterday I ended my blog-o-rama with an announcement that we’d be doing the first read-through of the show today! Yay! So I came in this morning with a spring in my step and some fear in my heart. But alas, turns out, I was a day off — we’re doing the read-through tomorrow. I guess I’ve never been good with schedules, which is why I became a playwright instead of an air traffic controller. I did, however, stick to my word and last night, I went out and liquored myself up had a drink, hoping to attack today’s reading in a bit of a haze. Ah, well, I came to reason totally groggy for no reason. The things I do for my art.

For the morning session, the entire cast (all five of them) sang through the entire show. And they rocked it. Somehow, Davd and our fearless MD, Doug Katsaros, make them sound like more than 5 people! Often, they sound like 6 people. Sometimes 7. And once, 8. But no matter how many people they sound like, they rocked it.

By the way, an MD in a musical is not a medical doctor, it’s a Musical Director. He’s the guy or she’s the gal who’s in charge of keeping the show’s score in tact. He teaches the singers the music, he conducts the band and plays the keyboards during the show, and he makes sure that it all sounds tight and sharp. Doug is one of the best MD’s in the business, and the show’s going to sound awesome under his sweet control. He also owns a collection of brightly colored shirts that make him look really cool.

After lunch, our director, John Rando, started to stage the show. Yes, now that the songs are learned, we’re working on actual dialogue! Oh, I am such a happy bookwriter …. okay, okay I have to stop right here and unload a career-long pet peeve on you — why do the call the script of a musical “the book,” and the person writes the script the “bookwriter?” Could that be more confusing? When most people see the word “book,” they think of a, oh I dunno, an actual book. You know that common object with the pages in between two covers that fills up bookstores and bookshelves and the like. Do you know how many people have said to me over the years — “Oh, so you wrote the book that the show is based on, too?” We writers spend our time trying to be as clear and precise with words as possible, and then we’re saddled by THE MOST CONFUSING JOB TITLE OF ALL TIME. How about librettist? Would it kill anyone to call us librettist? What confused person decided this whole “book” thing in the first place anyway? If you know who it is, have him give me a call.

Thanks. I feel better.

So tomorrow afternoon is our read-through (I’m sure of it this time!) But no drinking for me tonight (truth be told, I’m a total lightweight when it comes to imbibing.) Time to go home and order Chinese food and then try to prevent my dog from eating half of it. Tomorrow, I will just have to face my words sober.

But The Toxic Avenger is speaking as well as singing now. By the way, judging from today’s early scene work, our cast not only sings great, they’re also funny as hell. So all seems well here in Teatro di New World.

Till tomorrow —

With so much love I can hardly stand it,
Joe

REHEARSAL DAY 4. THE BIG READ-THROUGH!

A busy day in ToxicAvengerLand, so my blog won’t be its usual wordy overwritten way-too-long detailed self.

The day began gloriously with taskmaster director John Rando staging the opening number (“Who Will Save New Jersey?”) and the closing number (“A Brand New Day in New Jersey.”) By the way, for those interested in the “arc” of the show, the title of the closing number answers whether or not New Jersey is saved. And for those interested in who actually saves New Jersey, you’ll need to come see our show!! (or, I suppose, you could just look at the title of the show and save yourself $65 dollars.) Anyway, the Rando’s staging went great (well, that’s what I heard. I wasn’t there ’cause I was home sleeping trying to drag my dog on a long walk working on other things.) But Rando’s work on this show has always been spectacular, so I can’t wait to see what he’s done when I actually show up for a full rehearsal.

We then started the second half of the day (I showed up for that!) with the “Meet and Greet.” Now, a “Meet and Greet” on a show generally happens on the first day of rehearsal. It’s when everyone associated with the show, from rosy-cheeked interns to the highly beloved playwright, gets in a room and stands around and uncomfortably introduces themselves, all the while looking at the other folks in the room wondering — “Is this crowd gonna be able to make this show a hit so I can collect an actual paycheck for the next few months?” So we met and we greeted and damn it if this group doesn’t seem like they can deliver a helluva entertaining evening. Taskmaster Rando gave a rousing speech to the troops, and both David Bryan and I brilliantly added to his call to arms by essentially saying, “Ditto.”

Following this lovefest, we sat down to do the first ‘read through” of the show. Now as daily readers of this blog know, I approach first read-throughs in one of three ways —
A) full of terror and anxiety
B) full of horror and fear
C) A combination of the above.

But for some reason, I approached today’s reading with a surprising serenity that bordered on the medicated. So our sterling cast of five actors read and song through the show and you know what? I was pretty damned entertained. All the changes we made since our George Street Playhouse debut actually seemed helpful. And our new song, “Jersey Girl,” seems pretty damn funny. At least to its two nervous authors. The director liked it, too. And the intern who gets us coffee. So it must be good.

By the way, I just got the schedule for tomorrow’s rehearsal (yes, we in the theatre rehearse on the weekends. Monday is our day off. I have no idea why this is. It confuses everyone, including my dog.) Anyway, tomorrow is a ‘fight rehearsal’ — meaning that the fight director comes in and rehearses all the violence in the show. On the list for tomorrow —

p5 bullies beat up Melvin (Men)
p6 Sarah almost falls off stage edge (Sarah)
p20 Melvin dropped in goo (Men)
p23 Bullies attack Sarah (Dudes, Sarah)
p25 Kick Your Ass (Men)
p36 thug beats up old lady (Men)
p75 Toxie kills Edna (Nick, Matt)
p54 Toxie grabs Mayor by Neck

Sounds like an awesome show, no?! Interestingly, “Annie” originally had a similar fight list, then they made changes and … anyway, more fascinating facts tomorrow.

With an inappropriate squeeze,
Joe

REHEARSAL DAY 5. A DAY OF UNRELENTING VIOLENCE.

Today, fighting fills the House of Entertainment known as New World.

Under the congenial yet sadistic guidance of master fight director, Rick Sordelet, the cast is learning how to safely beat the crap out of one another. Such questions as “Does the music stop when he rips off her arm?” and “How do we tear out your spine off and then get you off stage quickly?” are filling the air. It all makes for an incredibly entertaining rehearsal.

On-stage violence is a precise art. The most horrific-looking acts need to be rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed so A) it’s totally safe for the actors and B) it looks really cool. Right now, The Toxic Avenger (Nick Cordero) is breaking the neck of an adorable old lady (played sparkingly by Matthew Saldivar.) And it’s safe and cool and horrifying.

The character responsible for most of this mayham is, of course, our title superhero. Now it’s always exciting to discover a leading man who can carry a musical, so we’re thrilled that Nick Cordero came to an audition and made us sit up and say, “Who is this guy? Where did he come from? How come we didn’t know his name before?” Turns out, Nick came from the land known as Canada. He did a bunch of theatre up there then came down to NYC and we snatched him up. He sings like a rock star, he’s a thoroughly charming actor, and at 6’4, he’s exceedingly tall (Note: I’m 5’7 so anyone over 6 feet is exceedingly tall to me.) Perhaps most remarkably, he spends 3/4 of the show wearing a mutant mask, yet he’s still able to convey great pathos and humor and soul. He’s my kind of actor.

Oh, and now he’s lifting Nancy Opel by the neck and threatening to stop her evil, polluting ways (they’re both in character, I think.) And Nancy Opel has the unique ability to actually be funny while someone is choking her. Truly, a gift.

Peace and love,
Joe

REHEARSAL DAY 6. BRING YOUR DOG TO WORK DAY.

Today I brought my dog to rehearsal.

Let me be clear — taking your dog to rehearsal is a very UNPROFESSIONAL THING TO DO. But Rocco (that’s the dog) is small and adorable and he spent this past week giving me sad dog eyes every time I left for work, so I broke down and put him in a cab and took him along. (Please note: he’s massively cute and uses that cuteness to totally manipulate me.) Also, in my paltry defense, he is an experienced rehearsal dog who has seen many shows in his seven years, so he knows how to chill during work time and then mingle during Equity-approved breaks. Quite frankly, he knows the Equity break schedule better than most Equity stage managers, so he fits right in.

But I’m also feeling very self-aware that I took my pet to the theatre, so I’m hoping the cast and crew all think that this makes me a delightfully eccentric writer instead of a crazy-guy-who-takes-his-dog-everywhere-and-probably-uses-him-as-a-substitute-for-real-human-interaction. (Truth be told, what I find most comforting about my dog is that he’s the one being in my life who never gives me notes on how to make any of my shows better.)

As Rocco sleeps, Tony-Award-winning actor-manipulator John Rando is staging our big love ballad — “Hot Toxic Love.” Now, ballads are often staged with the two lovers simply standin’ and embracin’ and singin’ their lovin’ hearts out. But John is giving the number a hyper-comic staging, including directing one of the lovers to wander off stage for a large part of the number. I’ve, uh, never, uh, quite seen anything like it. You would think composer/rockstar David Bryan would be throwing a fit at his leading lady singin’ his big love symphony off-stage, but he is too busy laughing hysterically. Rocco just continues to sleep.

A quick note about comedy — who the hell knows what makes one person funny and one not. I’ve seen actors walk into an audition and start to read a scene and immediately make me double over in laughter. And then I’ve seen other actors read the exact same scene and by the second page I feel as if I’m stuck watching the fourth hour of “Mourning Becomes Electra.” So I’m sendin’ much appreciative love to the five comic whirlwinds rehearsing on stage right now.

Also right now, Rocco is snoring loudly and the actors are wondering who is sleeping while they’re doin’ their damndest to entertain us. I bravely pretend like this is not happening.

So after six grueling days of rehearsing, tomorrow (Monday) is our day off. That’s the way it works in theatre — six days on, one day off. And I have to say that as we near the end of week one, all is going remarkably smoothly. As of today, the jokes are still making us laugh and David’s melodies are still happily rockin’ in our brains. But having been through this drill before, I fully realize that sometime around the end of week 2, familiarity will rear its ugly head, and these same jokes will lose all their delight and the melodies will have that I-can’t-get-them-out-of-my-head-no-matter-how-hard-I-try feeling. And I, in turn, will start to question my taste level and my talent.

But that’s not till next week! Right now, Toxic rocks! Hell, even Rocco has risen from his usual stupor to stare at the stage. I take that as a hopeful sign from God.

Be sure to tune in next week as we get closer to our first preview and the anxiety level heightens.

Till then —
Much, much love,
Joe, the crazy-guy-who-takes-his-dog-everywhere-and-probably-uses-him-as-a-substitute-for-real-human-interaction.

WEEK 2, DAY 1, YANKEES 4

Our first day back after our first day off! We all look rested and fabulous.

As all you obsessive brilliant daily readers of this blog know, I brought my dog to rehearsal on Sunday. Today, like the true professional that I am, I left him home. Immediately, I was accosted by the cast and crew. “Where’s your dog?” they all asked. “I left him at home today, like the true professional I am,” I responded. Most didn’t even try to hide their grave disappointment. If it was put to a vote, they would’ve undoubtedly voted for Rocco to come in and me to stay at home. And frankly, I don’t blame them. When my dog comes to rehearsal, he hangs out and cuddles up in their laps and looks lovingly in their eyes. When I come to rehearsal, I sit in the back, looking alternately grim and terrified. I’d rather have my dog come to rehearsal instead of me, too.

So though dog-less, we still managed to ehearse a slew of lively scenes and fights today, including a newly rewritten (and pivotal) scene that happens late in the show.

SPOILER ALERT — STOP READING IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW THE NOT-TOO-SUPRISING PLOT TWIST I AM ABOUT TO REVEAL! AND FOR GOD’S SAKE, DON’T START READING UNTIL YOU SEE THE CAPITAL LETTERS AGAIN! DID YOU STOP READING YET? IF YOU HAVEN’T, DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU! IF YOU DID STOP READING, THEN I’M JUST WRITING THE REST OF THIS SENTENCE FOR NO REASON WHATSOVER. SORRY.

So as the show nears its dramatic conclusion, Sarah (the blind librarian) comes to the realization that the man she’s dating (The Toxic Avenger) is actually a mutant freak. None-too-happy with this situation, Sarah breaks up with Toxie. It’s a tricky scene, because it needs to be in the tone of the rest of the show (outrageously funny) while at the same time the audience needs to feel the pain that both Toxie and Sarah are experiencing.

OKAY, YOU CAN PROBABLY START READING HERE AND NOT HATE ME FOR SPOILING ANYTHING. BUT I ALSO THINK THAT YOU CAN READ THE ABOVE PLOT POINT WHICH YOU SKIPPED AND STILL ENJOY THE SHOW. I MEAN, IT’S REALLY NOT THAT SURPRISING A PLOT POINT. IT’S NOT LIKE EVERYONE’S REALLY DEAD AND THE WHOLE SHOW WAS A DREAM OR SOMETHING.

Anyhoo, in the show’s initial regional production, the scene mainly relied on laughs. In this production, the scene is rewritten and played for pathos as well as laughs. So TonyAwardBoy John Rando was hard at work directing the new version of the scene with Sara Chase and Nick Cordero — and I’m happy to report that this pivotal moment works so much better than it ever did. It’s now funny and compelling and a bit heartbreaking. It’s a good lesson — always take your characters’ journeys seriously, no matter how broad the comedy.

OH, AND SORRY ABOUT ALL THE CAPITAL LETTERS BEFORE. THEY’RE A LITTLE OBNOXIOUS.

yours in lower case,
Joe

WEEK 2, DAY 2 — HEARSING AND REHEARSING THE SHOW

Full confession, I stole that headline (“Hearsing and rehearsing the show”) from my favorite Bugs Bunny song. But I stole it ’cause I think it’s a pretty brilliant lyric. And The Toxic Avenger, at its best, has the feel of classic Bugs, so it’s an appropriate theft.

Rehearsals continue to go swimmingly. We’ve done basic staging for all the scenes and numbers and now we’re romping through large swatches of the show each day. And — thankfully! miraculously! — it all still seems funny and fresh. Thank you, theatre gods.

Of course, in order to make a comedy work, besides needing two incredibly brilliant incredibly handsome nice writers, you also need a great comic director. And we got one in John Rando.

What makes a director of comedies great, you ask. Well, I answer, in John’s case, I think it’s his specificity. He knows how to tune each and every moment in the show for full comic effect. For instance, when Sarah first meets Toxie, he tells her where he’s from (“Exit 7,”) and she replies, “Oh, I hear it’s beautiful down there.” A pretty funny joke, I thought, and it’s uttered by an extraordinarily funny actress (Sara Chase.) But it was hearsed and rehearsed today and no one in the theatre (the cast, the crew, the intern with the coffee) laughed. At all.

So John told Sara, “Next time you say it, lean back on the large barrell behind you, as if you were describing the most dreamily beautiful place imaginable.”

So she did. And the whole gang in the theatre laughed. Even I laughed, and I never laugh at my own stuff. But John doles out direction like that all day. It’s pretty amazing to watch.

But before I say too many nice things about the man, I should also point out that since he won his incredibly well-deserved Tony Award for “Urinetown,” whenever one has a creative disagreement with him now, he whips out his award and says, “Oh, yeah? Tell it to Mr. Tony, bitch!”

Okay, okay, he doesn’t really do that (he’s way too nice a guy.) But if I had a Tony, I would totally do that. As a matter of fact, I might try swiping his Tony just to try that out next time David Bryan questions one of my lyrics or something. Though I guess it wouldn’t really make sense since I didn’t actually win the award. Okay, never mind We’ve been hearsing and rehearsing all day and my brain seems to be going numb.

And I just went out in the lobby, and I ran into the megatalented Leslie Kritzer, who is starring in a new show, “Rooms,” in the theatre right across from ours. It’s nice to be sharing the world of New World Stages with Leslie and her new show (which I hear is great.) And here’s a fun trivia fact, when we did our first reading of Toxic two years ago, I actually offered Leslie the role of Sarah. She couldn’t do it (I believe she was starting rehearsals for “Legally Blonde.”) Other actresses wound up playing the part in the reading and in our first production in New Jersey, and here we are in NYC with the brilliant Sara Chase.

And on a sad theatre note: Horton Foote, a great, great playwright, died today. As a writer, I so admired his ability to explore the small moments in everyday life and then build these moments into something complex and heartwrenching and beautiful. He was a stunning writer. On a happy theatre note: Horton Foote was able to write for the theatre right up to the end of his life, and we playwrights should all be so lucky.

Truly, Madly, Deeply, Profoundly, Sexily,
Joe

WEEK 2, DAY 3 MONEY MAKES THE SHOW RUN LONG

Money. As important to art as, well, art. But more on that soon. First, the art.

Right now, up on stage, Sarah and Toxie are about to sing their big-ass love ballad, Hot Toxic Love, and it boasts a kick-ass song cue — a Helen Keller joke. As far as I know, no song in the history of musical theatre has ever had a Helen Keller joke as a lead-in (Hm, “Did I Feel Pretty” have a HK joke as a lead-in? Maybe, maybe, maybe. Note to self: goggle that.) But we got one. And it somehow perfectly captures the tone of our show. And if you’re wondering what the joke is — keep reading, dear readers, keep reading.

In one of my earlier, fantastic blogs, I waxed rhapsodic about our leading man, Nick Cordero, so let me take a moment to wax about our leading lady, Sara Chase. Sara did a reading of the play last spring, and she was, in a word, so-freakin’-funny-we-could-barely-stand-it. We wanted her to do our try-out production at George Street Playhouse, but she had already signed up for last season’s Broadway version of “Godspell,” which, as you theatre fanaticss know, was abruptly cancelled by the producers the day before rehearsals began (which meant that lots of folks were suddenly unemployed. Which sucked. And Sara was also suddenly unemployed. Which doubly sucked, since we had already cast another actress to play her role.)

However, the Godspell-suddenly-cancelled story has a happy ending (for us, anyway) ’cause Sara did come to see the show in Jersey and we happily snapped her up for New York. Besides having a huge singing voice, she’s a great, great comedienne. If you’re a comic writer like yours truly, you find yourself lucky if you get to work with actresses who can always find the funny in any moment on stage. I’ve had the great fortune of working with some of these rare talents already (Jennifer Simard, Kerry Butler, Nancy Opel, Leslie Kritzer, to name just a few) so it’s a thrill to watch another great comedienne making my lines funnier than they often have any right to be.. Remarkably, Sara’s largely unknown to NY audiences, but Toxic should hopefully change all that. Oh yeah, she also sings the hell out of David’s melodies.

In other Toxic news, we’ve just realzied that our weekly nut (which is the amount of money it takes to run the show each week) is somehow ten percent overbudget. Not an uncommon problem in the wacky world of commercial theatre, but now is the time to make sure that the show doesn’t become too expensive. The more controlled the expenses are, the better shot the show has at having a a nice, long run. So, we’ll do a little soul-searching and cost-cutting, and all should be well. Rgardless, our five-person show has the look and feel of a much bigger, splashier production. David and I both believe in giving the audience the biggest bang for their buck, and we’re bangin’ away at New World Stages, baby.

Oh yeah, as for the Helen Keller joke:
“How did Helen Keller burn her hand?”
And as for the answer to the Helen Keller joke:
Well, I suppose you’ll just have to come see the show now, won’t you? (insert evil laugh here.)

With love and hope and peace and joy and more love and a little fondness but not too much,
Joe

WEEK 2, DAY … AH, WHO CARES. I GOT A PIC OF MY DOG HERE

So after spending almost two weeks trying to write a high-falutin’ blog about the making of a classic art musical, I came upon a cold, hard fact of life today. The most interest that my blog has generated concerns my dog. That’s right, my dog, Rocco, who I dragged to rehearsal the other day. “Let’s see him!” screamed a dear reader. “Stop with all the writing and show us the dog,” screamed another.

Of course, I could ignore this public outcry and soldier on and tell you all the FANTASTIC and FASCINATING things that happened at rehearsal today. For instance, we ran through nearly 2/3rds of the show without stopping and it seemed HYSTERICAL and INSANE (in the best possible way.) Or that our kick-ass band came in for the first time and began to play through the score with David and they sound awesome. Or that we’ve got the budget of the show under control and all seems sunny on the money front.

But noooooo, the blogsphere wants to see the little guy with four legs who has been absolutely NO HELP WHATSOEVER in the rehearsal process. So, as a firm believer in spreading my legs and giving the public what it wants, here it is — a picture of my canine playing the cute card for all its worth —


There, now are you happy, America? Don’t say I don’t love you. By the way, I’m going to take my four-legged sidekick to rehearsal on Sunday (at least, that’s the plan,) and I’ll do my damndest to take some pics of him on the set and with the megatalented stars of our show. That should quench everyone’s insatiable cute-dog-picture thirst.

In non-pet related news, tomorrow we will be doing our first full run-through of the show. I’m very excited about it (though I’ll spend a good full hour getting insanely nervous about it beforehand.) So tune in late tomorrow for a full run-through report. Without dog pics.

Woof,
Joe

WEEK 2, DAY 5 – AT LEAST NO ONE THREW UP IN THE THEATRE!

So I arrived at the theatre today all happy and caffinated and somewhat nauseous in anticipation of our first full, non-stop run-through of The Toxic Avenger. Right before I arrived, though, rockstar/composer David Bryan called to say that he woke up this morning with intense food poisoning and he’s only been able to lift his head off the pillow to vomit. This immediately relieved my stomach pains since I figured that David was more than nauseous enough for the both of us. David obviously couldn’t make the run-through, so I promised to call him immediately afterwards. He then muttered something incomprehensible and hung up so he could be sick some more. (Theatrical Tip: It was absolutely a good thing that David didn’t come in today since actors tend to take it the wrong way when they see one of the authors vomit during a performance.)

With David home in bed, the run-through at Teatro di New World started and I just held my breath and thought oh-my-god-I-hope-this-doesn’t-suck I’m so excited! And to my delight, a mere twenty mintues into the show, I zapped off a text to David that read “This show is very entertaining.” Yes, any nerves I might’ve sported quickly vanished as I watched our actors do their thing. They were, in a word, tremendous. And please note — there were only a few of us creative staff types watching today, so the cast was pretty much playing a broad comedy to an empty theatre. (Where are the laughs?! Where is the love?!)

Of course, seeing an initial run-through, you always learn that there are some areas for improvement. A couple of the lyrics to the new song, “Jersey Girl,” can (and will) be sharpened, and there were various jokes I know I can make funnier. So it’s back to the word processor tonight. But the structure of the show seemed very solid, and I gotta say the show seemed to zip by in a tight hour and forty minutes. So damn it, this grumpy author like it. By the way, I reported all of this back to David, who who seemed to be happily on the road to recovery.

Tomorrow, the band makes their first rehearsal appearance the cast will get to sing with them in all their rock ‘n roll glory (up till now, the actors have only been accompanied by superb-pianist and brightly-shirted Katsaros on keyboards.) Oh yeah, and I’m bringing the dog in to take pictures of him on the set to satisfy my readership’s canine-lovin’ cravings.

Okay, I gotta go redraft some lyrics —

Fondly but not in an overly familar way yet not too distant either,
Joe

WEEK 2, DAY 6: DOG MAKES TRIUMPHANT RETURN

David’s alive. The band is kickin’. And Rocco’s back.

For all those who have expressed concern (some of you did express concern, right?) — composer/rockperson David Bryan conquered his bout of food poisoning and retud today looking a bit paler but, as he optimistically pointed out, five pounds thinner. We welcomed him back by immediately putting him to work. He pretty much ran rehearsal today as the band played through the entire score while the actors sang through the entire score and the sound people ran about frantically turning knobs and checking speakers to make sure it all sounded balanced and loud and not-too loud. We’re gonna be rockin’ New World Stages, baby!!

And as promised, to celebrate the end of our second week, I brought my dog (Rocco) back to the theatre. Insisting that he earn his bone marrow treats, I made him be the thematic thread for the following photo essay. As you can see, the dog was passed around like an unwanted hors d’oeuvre.

Here’s Rocco on stage with director John Rando and comic whirlwind Nancy Opel. In the back you can glimpse the toxic waste dump that is our very cool set.


Here’s Rocco with three-quarters of our band & pale but skinnier David. Please note the required “Rock ‘n Roll Hair” on everyone but the dog.


Here’s Rocco enjoying his favorite activity — lounging — while star Sara Chase gives him humiliating bunny ears —


In the most intense stand-off of the day, here’s Rocco suspiciously eyeing The Toxic Avenger mask.


And to end all this intense cuteness, here’s Rocco with your handsome blogger posing amidst the barrels that make up our set.


So there you have it. Photo journalism at its finest. I hope you enjoyed it.

After this exhausting day of rehearsing and singing and posing for pictures with a dog, the cast and crew and canine were beat. So we all trudged home happy in the knowledge that Monday is our day off. But wait, no! Why take a day off when we can record The Toxic Avenger Original Cast Recording?!

That’s right. Most shows record their albums weeks after they open, but thanks to the enthusiasm of our producers and the good folks at Time-Life Records, we’re recording our album in the middle of rehearsals so we can release it on opening night (April 6th!) Of course, that means our next day off isn’t until next week (sigh) but the album’s gonna rock. And I’ll give you a full report on our session on Tuesday.

Wishing none of you food poisoning although you would lose five pounds and look terrific,
Joe

TECH WEEK STARTS. WRITER AVOIDS WORK.

Today was the first day of Tech Week.

For the uninitiated, “Tech Week” is the week when the rehearsals move out of the rehearsal room and onto the actual stage (though we’ve actually been on the actual stage for the entire rehearsal period so ignore that sentence) and the focus goes from the words and music to the technical aspects of the show. All the designers have to show up for Tech Week (ha! ha!) in order to get the lighting looking awesome and the costumes looking attractive and the set looking impressive. And how did Day One of Tech go?

I have absolutely no idea.

You see, I didn’t actually show up. And it’s not because I’m lazy (though, technically, I am lazy,) it’s because I warmly refer to Tech Week as Writer’s Hell Week. Why such an aggressive term, you ask? Well, I answer, because not one damn moment of Tech Week is devoted to the text of the show. No, it’s all about making sure the lighting looks spectacular and the costumes fit and the actors don’t get killed by moving scenery. Now granted, those are all very important things to work out but do you know how long it takes to light one musical number? Think of the longest, most boring day you’ve ever spent at work. Then double it. Then think of the longest Tom Stoppard play you’ve seen that you didn’t understand even though you told people you did, then double that. Then add your doubled longest day at work to your doubled longest Tom Stoppard play. That’s how long one hour of Tech feels. Get the picture? Yeah, it’s long.

Let me give you an example. Say, the first line of the play is “Hi, my name is Ted.” Let me first point out that that sounds like a lousy play. But what happens during Tech Week is the actor playing Ted walks on stage and says, “Hi, my name is …” and inevitably the director yellls “STOP!” and then dozens of designer gnomes run around and make everything look pretty.

Yes, that’s how much the written word is respected during Tech — the actor isn’t even allowed to finish the sentence. This, as you can imagine, drives the person who wrote the sentence in-freakin-sane. So I didn’t show up for work. I just hung home with my dog, Rocco, who apparently is gaining a huge fan base because of this blog, which, quite frankly, is wasted on him ’cause right now all he cares about is getting his forty-fifth belly rub of the day.

Oh yeah, another excuse reason I didn’t go to Tech today, I was sorta tired ’cause yesterday on our day off a beautiful Monday, we recorded The Toxic Avenger original cast album. With David producing and our five actors singin’ their talented hearts out, we laid down sixteen tracks in 8 hours (as David kept pointing out, it takes most rock bands three months to lay down 12 tracks.) But in the financially-challenged land of theatre, you get only one day to make an album or else it costs, like, an extra hundred thousand dollars to finish it and you’re screwed. So David, along with ace Musical Director Doug Katsaros, kept the actors singin’ and damn, if it didn’t all sound fantastic. David knows how to make a record, which I guess is why his band has sold a billion of them. I made helpful comments like, “Could they sing that again but this time sing it better,” which made me feel important. But it was a great day for the show and humanity and The Toxic Avenger album should be available on our Opening Night, April 6th, at New World Stages, as well as on ITunes and Amazon and the last two remaining record stores that are still open.

As I finish this vital entry, Blog star Rocco is standing under the kitchen cabinet that tauntingly holds his BBQ treats and he’s, well, whimpering. I mean, really whimpering. Wow. It sounds like the final scene of :Terms of Endearment.” Gotta go.

Nighttime Update: I broke down and I snuck into Writer’s Hell this evening and they were just finishing up the Opening Number and I gotta say — it looks spectacular. The set, the costumes, the lights, the wigs — they’re all witty and original and just brilliant. Rando and company know what they’re doing. I’m just glad I wasn’t there to see them do it.

Sincerely, I mean really sincerely, I mean so sincerely it hurts,
Joe

TECH DAY 2: I’VE NAMED YOU!

Great news readers!

Because I’m sitting here in Tech Rehearsal BORED OUT OF MY FREAKIN’ SKULL (see yesterday’s blog for clarification) I wisely spent these last few BRAIN-NUMBING HOURS coming up with a punny “catchphrase/name” that will apply not only to you fanatic readers of this invaluable theatrical blog, but also to the soon-to-be rabid fans of the actual show (yes, why wait till the show actually opens to see if it has fans.) Just like Rent had its Rentheads and Xanadu had its Fanadus, I thought it was high time WHILE WAITING FOR THIS ENDLESS LIGHTING CUE TO BE SET to linguistically embrace all you lovers of the Tox.

So try this one on for side– you will now be called … drumroll, drumroll, drumroll …

Toxaholics!

You like? You like?

I think it’s superb, and it was so much more fun thinking that up than actually trying to pay attention to Tech Rehearsal. Yeah, Rando, we get it — the lighting has to be “good” and the set has to be “safe” and the sound has to be “crisp” and the costume changes have to “work.” Still, boring, boring, boring.

Having overstated that point, I thought I’d share with you the reason why Tech is important. Today we “teched” Melvin’s transformation into The Toxic Avenger. Let me set the scene — two illiterate Jerey thugs (sparkingly played by Demond Green and Matthew Saldivar) chase the hapless Melvin Ferd the Third (warmly played by Nick Cordero) up a two story mound of toxic waste barrels. They dangle the terrifiied Melvin over a bubbling, goo-filled barrel and, through a linguistic miscommunication, accidently drop him into it. Melvin disappears into the goo, meaning Nick Codero disappears into the goo (Note to world: this is why I’m a writer and not an actor who has to endure things like being dropped, head-first, into goo-filled barrels. Although I am in remarkable physical condition for a man of 47 years youngish guy, I still prefer not to be dropped into a barrel of goo.) Anyhoo, the thugs, realizing what they’ve done, decide to run away but they change their plans when the smokin’ hot Sarah strolls by and they decide to rape her instead. However, before their filthy hands have their filthy way, The Toxic Avenger (i.e. Nick) emerges from the same barrel into which he was discarded, spitting slime and ready to hurt someone. Nick needs to transform himself from Melvin into a mutant in about 90 seconds, and he does thanks to the awesome make-up/mask/prosthetic work of John Dods (see the video on this site of the master at work) and our awesome backstage crew. It had to be teched over and over again, but when they got it down — it was way cool.

So that is why tech is important and that is why whiney writers like me get ignored at this time — so actual, valuable work gets done. But I hope you enjoyed that story, Toxaholics (hey, that’s the first time anyone’s used that phrase in a sentence!! How’d it feel?? I hope good..)

By the way, I just ran into John Dods backstage and he was sewing up a large string of intenstines that the Toxic Avenger will be pulling out of one of the thugs. He’s got like the best job ever.

Wishing you all Toxaholic love and joy,
Joe

TECH DAY 3: DAVID SPEAKS!

Hello, Toxaholics!

Yes, the acceptance of that name has been joyous and widespread — so it’s stickin’! Support groups now forming.

Of the many comments this delightful blog has receveiced, perhaps the most demanding have been for David Bryan to ‘guest blog’. As Toxic luck would have it, David happens to be sitting right next to me in Writer’s Hell Week Tech rehearsal, so I’m going to ask him if he’d like to dive into the blogging pool. I hope the answer is printable. Hang on —

Hello All, this is David.. I just want to say that the success of The Toxic Avenger and, for that matter, any show I ever write, is entirely due to Joe DIPietro. His talent and his passion and his inner beauty inspire me and all who work with him every day. If I could package him into a pill, I would sell him so we all could be internally medicated by his Joeness..

Okay, okay, I, uh, guess David didn’t write that, I, uh, sorta did. But here’s David now FOR REAL —

DAVID SPEAKS:

Hey hey. This is my first blogging experience (more of a music guy, ya know … gimme a song and I know how to write it. So this isn’t quite my thing but I’m trying for you Toxaholics — and yeah, I dig that name.) Let me start out by saying that The Toxic Avenger js going to rock the house! I’m working on the sound design now so the show will be a theatrical rock ‘n roll experience. It’s funny because with Bon Jovi, we play to stadiums that seat at least 50,000 or so. But here at New World Stages (which is a great theatre) there are only 350 seats. So no matter where you sit, you’ll feel like you’re practically on stage. You’re also going to laugh a lot. And rock out. And I just read the beginning of this blog and I definitely didn’t write the paragraph about hoping to make Joe into a pill that we can all swallow him. I don’t feel that way at all.

Let me also say that we have a really kick ass band. Our drummer, Alan Childs, played with Bowie on the Glass Spiders Tour, and our Musical Director, Doug Katsaros was in the band Balance (and he wrote the three notes that make up the “By Mennon” theme — how cool is that?.) And our guitarist, Chris Cicchino, and our bass player, Dan Grennes, are real rock guys. They’re all killer players. So come see the show! If our premiere at George Street Playhouse was any indication, you’re going to have a great time.

All right, that was David. He actually doesn’t shut up is quite chatty in person, but he had to get back to working on the sound design of the show. Yes, the composer has a role during Tech, unlike me, the resident scribe, who has no function now except to blog and make annoying suggestions, like —

“Hey Mr. Director, could we see more light on Sara’s face in that scene?”
“We were about to do that, Joe.”
“Oh, never mind,” Joe says, slinking away.

Hey, but here’s a wonderful piece of news — Tech is beginning to move a bit faster now as everyone gets into a groove. It’s still slow but no longer I-want-to-slit-my-throat slow. Yeah, baby!

Amidst the slowness, my favorite scene so far today has been a number called “Choose Me, Oprah,” which Sara, the blind librarian, sings in hopes that the Queen of All Media chooses her memoir for her book club. Sara is backed up by her two best friends in the whole world, Shinequa and Diane, played sparkingly by Demond Green and Matthew Saldivar. And a quick word about those two sparkingly performers — originally David and I wrote the show with three lead roles and then forty-five supporting ones. But the producers refused to hire 45 other actors (as producers tend to refuse to do) so we decided to just hire two guys to play all the forty-five parts (thereby saving us TONS OF MONEY!)

Which brings me to Demond and Matthew. Bot only do these guys display amazing versitality on stage, but they display amazing costume-changing abilities off-stage. As Shinequa and Diane, they wear sparkly mini-dresses and shake their booties like two insane Tina Turner back-up dancers. Then, Demond quicly changes into a pot-bellied police chief while Matthew changes into a folk singer who won’t shut up and then Demond changes into an ethical scientist and Matthew changes into a panicked hairdresser and then… well, you get the picture. It’s exhausting. And they’re brilliant. And they’ve put 43 other actors out of work.

All right, Toxaholics, Tech is continuing on so it’s time to get back to napping work.

With stunning affection,
Joe

TECH DAY 3,827

Yo Toxaholics

So I had a groggy start to the day because last night, my dog and blogosphere star, Rocco, decided to wake me up at 4 AM. Since he never wakes me up in the middle of the night, I assumed that he desperately needed to be let out. So I grumpily stumbled out of bed and opened the back door for him, but, as it turns out, he didn’t need to go anywhere. Apparently, he woke me up just because he wanted to say “hi.” He then fell right back asleep in about 2.5 seconds. I attempted to do the same thing, but my mind was suddenly swimming with all sorts of Toxic thoughts (“When Toxie rips the intestines out of Sluggo, should he use them as a jump rope or a lasso?”) Of course, when contemplating such important issues, sleep doesn’t come so easily.

But I did eventually fall asleep again and I eventually woke up again forty-five minutes after my alarm sounded (thank you, dog.) I then proceeded to belatedly rush to a meeting for David’s and my other show (the Broadway-bound “Memphis.”) Now “Memphis,” the show, had recently played Seattle, the city, and during the run, many theatrical producers/investors/strangers came to see the show to decide if they should invest money in it (lots did!) and also to give us their “notes,” or “opinions,” or“stupid ideas” “good wishes.” Now as anyone in theatre knows, there are three basic things that all human beings need — we need to feel loved, we need to feel useful, and we need to tell other people how they can improve their musical. Fortunately, the ideas that our director and two producers discussed with us today were all helpful and smart (it’s a good thing working with smart folks!) and David and I left the meeting feeling warm and happy about our impending Broadway megaproduction. Hockadoo! (When you see “Memphis” you’ll understand what Hockadoo means. And you will see “Memphis,” won’t you? I mean, you would totally, totally, totally break my and David’s heart if you abandon us after just one show. But no pressure.)

Anyhoo, David and I trudged (I was still trudging — thank you, dog) to the underground theatrical emporium that is New World. Upon our arrival, we found that Tony-Goldenboy-Director John Rando and his talented trove of trenchant techies were still teching through the show. They had started on Monday, working eight to ten hours a day, and they had just reached the final scene. That’s right, it took over 38 hours — 38 hours! — to tech through our show once. (Oddly, an actual performance of “Cats” seems to run longer.) I should point out though, that compared to other shows, this is actually an incredibly quick Tech time. And the show looks spectacular! I’m just whining because, well, I can.

Due to all their efforts, we’re actually supposed to see the first full run-through of the show tomorrow night — complete with lights and costumes and make-up and acting and liquor (I might have a drink or two beforehand.) So a big viral hug to the excellent work being done during Hell Week Tech Week — all without me! I did enjoy when Rando excitedly told me that he was adding a nun to the big chase scene in which dozens of characters (sparkingly portrayed by Demon Green and Matthew Saldivar and Nancy Opel) pursue Toxie through town.

Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking — “Joe, why would such a silly, seemingly non-humorous idea excite you? Is it because you’re exhausted from being woken up at 4 AM by a bizarrely peppy dog?” Well yes, but also because a nun in pursuit of a monster just seems funny to me. So when you see the show, and you see the part where Nancy Opel runs across the stage in a habit, I bet you think to yourself, “Wow, that Joe was right! That is funny! I must send him a little something to thank him!” Or if you don’t think that, then, well, it’s all Rando’s fault.

Incredibly exhausted but pretending to be alert and lively,
Joe

TECH DAY 14,933: IMPORTANT QUESTIONS ANSWERED!

Hey Toxaholics! You guys rock! You rock! You rock!!!

I hope you enjoyed that suck-up warmly-felt greeting, but I just want to extend my appreciation to all my millions hundreds of thousands enthusiastic readers who have made this blog the Number One most viewed blog for Musical Theatre. Thanks all!

So I know what you’re all DYING to know — how is Toxie Tech going today? Spectacularly! And the reason it’s going spectacularly is ’cause I’m not there. I’m home with my needy dog and focusing on my blog work today. And David is in the recording studio mixing The Toxic Avenger Original cast album. I’m going to go in shortly and listen to David lay down a bonus track (!) — he’s going to sing an acoustic version of “You Tore My Heart Out.” And to sing it, he brought in his own microphone, which costs — get this — fifteen grand. Yep. For a microphone. For that money, I assume the mic doesn’t just record your voice — I assume it caresses it, massages it, and then takes your voice out for dinner and a night of passion. But it’s gonna sound awesome.

Being the author of the Number One most-viewed blog for Musical theatre, I get sent questions all the time (oddly, mostly asking for medical advice.) So here now are some eagerly awaited answers! Enjoy and learn!

Q: How come people say Jersey instead of New Jersey but no one ever says York instead of New York?
A: I have no idea. But thanks for asking.

Q: Why do you keep saying “Number One most-viewed blog for Musical Theatre?” Is that a real statistic or did you just make that up?
A: I, uh, just made it up. Ask me something else. Something important about the creation of a major new musical.

Q: As a member of the biggest band in the world, David Bryan has sold over 130 million records. Quite frankly, he seems a lot more interesting than you. Could you make this blog more about him and less about you?
A: No.

Q: Will you and David be at every performance? If so, how can I tell the difference between you and him?
A: He has cooler hair.

Q: Is David approachable? Can I say ‘hi’ to him after the show? How about before the show? How about during the show?
A: Yes, yes, no, no.

Q: If I brought 4,000 copies of “Slippery When Wet” for David to sign would …
A: Stop asking about David!!!!!

Q: Well, well, well, someone seems to have developed a little inferiority complex there …
A: That’s not a question. Move on.

Q: Would you sleep with a critic if they promised to give you a good review?
A; Yes.

Q: Okay, but what if you slept with some critic and then that critic gave you a bad review anyway? How would you feel?
A: Dirty and used. The way I like it.

Q: I am an aspiring Hooters waitress and I enjoy sleeping with off-Broadway bands. If I show up at the stage door after the show, do you think that there’s any chance I could hook up with any of The Toxic Avenger band members?
A: That will be absolutely no problem.

Q: If you could by any fictional character in a musical, which one would it be?
A: The Little Mermaid. Because I always thought it would be cool to live under water and still have arms.

Q: Settle a bet — who would win a death match between The Toxic Avenger and Shrek? And be honest.
A: Easy. The Toxic Avenger is bulletproof and has superhuman strength. Shrek is strongish and has, like, a bad temper or something. Toxic, no contest.

Q: Okay, what about a death match between The Toxic Avenger and Mary Poppins. And remember — Poppins has magical powers — she can fly and pull big stuff out of her handbag and cool things like that.
A: Hm. Excellent question. In hand-to-hand combat, it’d be a quick Toxic win. But my hunch is Poppins would fly over Toxic and then pour cleaning supplies on him (specifically, bleach) which would kill him. So yeah, Poppins. Damn her.

Q: Do you think Disney will sue you for an unauthorized mentioned of their beloved Nanny?
A: Yes. The phone’s ringing right now..

Q: I’ve recently lost my job and my 401K is now worth three dollars and change. I have no prospects on the horizon and less than one hundred bucks in the bank. Should I spend the last of my money on a ticket for “The Toxic Avenger” although that means I will have to immediately move in with my parents?
A: Absolutely. The laughter that Toxic evokes will restore your faith in life and the economy. It will even make you like your parents more.

Q: That was a cold answer. Jeez. Aren’t you gonna even offer the guy a discount?
A: Right, sorry. Go to www.broadwaybox.com which is where you can find discounts for pretty much every show in the universe. But only buy a ticket for us. Every other show sucks.

Well, I’ve hoped you Toxaholics have learned something today. I sure have (specifically — not showing up to Tech is fun!) If you have any more questions you’d like answered, post’em or send’em my way!!

With great knowledge and learnedness,
Joe

TECH DAY 28,461: DOGS GONE WILD!

As The Week that Won’t End Tech Week rolls along, the Toxaholic demand for another canine photo essay has reached a crescendo. So being a total whore person who believes in giving the audience what it wants, I took my Canon Sureshot to Le Stages de New World today to record the joy.

At the civilized hour of noon, dog/blogstar Rocco and I hopped in a cab. After being driven down Amsterdam Avenue at 120 miles an hour, we arrived at rehearsal to find Rando and company working through various technical aspects of the show (boring, boring, boring,) But to my surprise, we were also greeted by Momo. Who’s Momo, you ask? Excellent question, I answer. Momo is Nancy Opel’s delightful miniature poodle who was getting bored sitting home while Nancy was spending all day and night in Tech.

So here’s a brief and important photo essay detailing what a Tech rehearsal looks like when two dogs show up — (EDITOR’S WARNING: The dog cuteness factor below is through the roof. So please scroll down with moderation.)

First, let’s meet the players. This is Nancy holding Momo, standing next to Rocco and Heidi, who is one of our director’s assistants and she is seen here doing the very important director assistant’s job of holding the author’s dog. For some reason in this picture, Rocco has evil blue, death-ray eyes —


While venturing backstage to mingle, Rocco found himself petted by a large green mutant hand. Notice that the expression on Rocco’s face is the same expression that you’d have if you were being petted by a large green mutant hand.


As for Momo, she cannot bear being seperated from Nancy, so Nancy had to rehearse much of the day holding the little guy. Here they are on the set of the Tromaville Beauty Parlor, where Nancy gets to sing a duet with herself, which she did today holding Momo. Momo seemed to find this all very normal.


As all good Toxaholics know, The Toxic Avenger takes place in the mythical town of Tromaville, New Jersey — so here’s Rocco posing by some on-set signage. PLEASE NOTE: Rocco did not — I repeat, did not! — make the mess that is is on the sign. That mess was expertly designed by our multi-award winning design staff and cost about $300 dollars. Ironically, Rocco would’ve made that mess for free if we had thought of it.


Below is a shot of the back of the head of comic maestro John Rando and assistant Heidi watching our two freakin’ brilliant comic actresses — Nancy Opel and Sara Chase — rehearsing (though they’re not yet in costume.) And notice what is cradled in Nancy’s arms. A prop? No. It’s Momo.


At day’s end, we did a run-through of the show and I generously placed Rocco in the best seat in the house so he could watch. And here he is with his usual reaction to my work —


To end today’s fantastic photo journalism expose, here is David and me at the mixing studio yesterday. You see, as the Tech-a-thon was going on in midtown, David was locked in a Chelsea recording studio mixing The Toxic Avenger Original Cast Album. WARNING! There are no dogs in the picture below! So if you have a problem with that, move on. Oh, and truth be told, I just popped by the studio for a couple of hours while David was there for, like, 73 hours straight. But because of the pic, it looks like I was there as long as him. Ha!


(note: author apologies for the exceedingly cute blog pictorial today. But it’s the end of the week and the REAL TENSION begins this week with the arrival of our first audiences! So I just had to get the cute dog shots out of my system. Sorry.)

Now guess what Monday brings Team Toxic? Our first audience! Yes, on Monday night we have our Invited Dress Rehearsal. That means we’ll run-through the show in front of a packed house of friends, colleagues, lovers, people we’d like to be lovers, etc. Hopefully, they will LOVE US! LOVE US! LOVE US! And also hopefully, beforehand, I won’t THROW UP! THROW UP! THROW UP!

Oh yeah, Monday is also, technically, our “day off.” If you recalll, on last week’s “day off,” we spent 14 hours recording the album. (Note to self: for next show, have producers explain exactly what they mean by “day off.”) I only bring this point up because Monday is, indeed, my blogging day off. So on Tuesday, I’ll give all you Toxaholics a complete recap of the Invited Dress. Hopefully I will be happy and encouraged and not despondent and suicidal. Stay tuned —

Woof,
Joe

DRESS REHEARSAL SPECIAL REPORT! (INCLUDES BONUS DOG PICTURE!)

So last night was our Invited Dress Rehearsal! Let me explain for all you non-theatre professionals — we had a dress rehearsal and we invited people to see it. (Note: I thought I had to explain what it was but now that I think about it, it’s pretty clearly named. Sorry.)

Anyway, we had about 300 invited folks in the audience. Who the hell were these invited few, you ask? Well, here’s an idea of some of the luminaries in the audience —

1 – 30 or so people from the theatre where Toxic originated — The George Street Playhouse — THE GREATEST THEATRE IN THE WOLRD! Run by the handsome and brilliant David Saint, who was also there, looking handsome and brilliant. (Question: Joe, do you think he’s handsome and brilliant because A) he is handsome and brilliant or because B) he was the first to premiere Toxic? Answer: A with a dash of B.

2 – About 30 cast members from Memphis, my and David’s next musical, scheduled to reach BROADWAY THIS FALL. AND IT’S GONNA BE AWESOME!!! Sorry for that shameless self-promotion. BUT IT”S GONNA BE AWESOME!!

3 – A bunch of David’s friends from New Jersey, including his childhood buddy, Sal the Cop, who is the spiritual inspiration for the character of Sal the Cop in The Toxic Avenger (sparkingly played by Matthew Saldivar.)

4 – About 4 friends who had to rush out right after the show to pay their babysitters.

5 – Other actors and writers and producers and people like that.

6 – The college-age nephew of Sue Frost, a producer of Memphis (IT’S GONNA BE AWESOME!), and six college buddies of his. I didn’t know them but they seemd very nice and said “dude” a lot.

Okay, enough about the audience (though they were all terrific and attractive.) How’d the damn dress rehearsal go?!

Well, keeping in mind that the audience consisted mainly of friends (though many are grumpy friends,) — it went great. Our cast and band and crew shook off any oh-my-god-we-have-to-perform-this-show-in-NY nerves they might have had, and they delivered the best performance of the show I have yet to see. And the crowd response was tremendous! (And thank goodness for that, otherwise there would’ve been A LOT of awkward moments when they were leaving and saying goodbye.)

But they laughed, they cheered, they stood and applauded — and I didn’t even have to sleep with any of them to get them to do it. It was a terrific night, and a great way to start.

And tomorrow is our first actual preview performance, meaning we perform the show for the first time in NY in front of a paying audience. Yes, these are theatregoers who have seen their 401K’s plummet to the depths of hell yet still they’ve plunked down what little money they have left to see what the hell we’ve been up to down in New World Stages. And I am nothing but terrifiednauseous excited about it!

In fact, I’m so excited, I’m posting an extra dog picture from the other day’s rehearsal! Here’s the pug being petted by a green mutant hand and kinda enjoying it —


Hopefully, tomorrow night’s audience will be feeling just as good after the show.

By the way, if you are a Toxaholic blog reader (and God bless you if you are,) and you come see the show, feel free to say ‘hi’ afterwards. I will normally be pacing in the back, clutching a non-fat latte, hopefully looking calm and relaxed.

Love me, love me, love me,
Joe

FIRST PREVIEW TONIGHT! FIRST PREVIEW JUST HAPPENED!

So it’s First Preview Day! Yay!

But before I begin, lemme just thank all you Toxaholics for the good wishes you’ve been posting! Between getting the show up and writing the blog and talking care of a needy dog and trying to get at least a little sleep — I haven’t had a moment to answer, but don’t think your posts go unread. They are GREATLY appreciated, especially in this time of need (i.e. dress rehearsal and previews.)

So I just returned home from rehearsal to have some dinner and tend to the dog Total side note: I came home to find the dog exhausted because the cable repair guy was here today, and the only creatures who react more excitedly to a visit from a cable repair guy are actors in porn movies. So the cable repair guy came and Rocco barked and barked and ran around like a lunatic and kept trying to smell the cable repair guy’s tools (that’s “tools” not “tool.”) So now the dog is, thankfully, fast asleep.

But enough about Rocco! I’m the one with the first preview tonight, so I bet you’re wondering how I’m feeling. And if you’re not wondering that, then you probably stopped reading this blog when I got to the long tangent about the dog.

First, let me say thanks for wondering about me. And second, I thought I was feeling absolutley calm and relaxed and confident. But I just ate an apple and, for some reason, I have now have a rash on my lower lip. It feels like an allergic reaction but since I’ve eated about 2 billions apples in my lifetime, it doesn’t take a medical degree to figure out that it’s probably nerves. Okay, okay, I’m nervous! People paid money to see this show that David and I have been working on for two years and now we have to actually show it to them. I want them to laugh their heads off and love it. Not like it! Love it! No wonder I’m breaking out in a rash.

Okay, I have to grab a bite then run to the theatre, but through the magic of, uh, not posting this blog entry till later, the next sentence you read will be me after I’ve returned home from the show. If you’re anywhere near a drum, please play a drum roll for dramatic effect. If you’re not near a drum, please play an imaginary drum roll in your head. Okay, start!

Okay, I’m back — stop drumming. I just shared a cab home with director John Rando (who lives but several blocks from me.) While cabbing, we both realized we were absolutely exhausted but, well, thrilled. The first preview went as well as we could’ve hoped. The audience laughed from the first minute of the show and then continued throughout! And I didn’t know any of them! Well actually, I had one friend in the audience, but that was it. And he’s not that loud a laugher. These paying folks were there to have a great time and it certainly seems as if they did. Many numbers received huge rounds of applause, and even a lot of the jokes got applause. That is a sweet, sweet sound to a comedy writer like yours truly. So thank you first preview audience!

Oh, we did have two Toxic celebrities in the audience — namely, the son and granddaughter of the actress who played Toxie’s mother in the the original Toxic movie (there pics will be posted on the website shortly.) It was cool that they came, and especially cool that they told us how much they loved the show.

Funny non-relevant story — before the show, I saw David standing outside the theatre posing for pictures with Bon Jovi fans (he’s always happy to do that.) Immediately afterwards, he came to me and said, “How does my smile look?” Now David has never asked me how his smile or any other part of him looks; that just ain’t David. But as I looked at his smile I noticed that it was actually a bit crooked. He confessed that the bottom of one of his crowns fell out last night at dinner, so he posed for all the pictures with half his lip trying to covering up the imperfect tooth. So if you have a pic of David tonight, you have a classic.

Anyway, Toxaholics, I’m exhausted, and even the dog seems to have turned in early (thank you, cable repair guy!) So I’m going to get some much-needed sleep as I get ready for tomorrow’s rehearsal and second preview! But Toxie has arrived in New York and New York seems happy to have us.

With love and releif,

Joe

PREVIEW DAY 2: REHEARSALMANIA. KISSING ROCK STUDS

Greetings, Toxaholics —

So it’s the afternoon following our first preview (which was very Toxarrifc Fantoxtic exciting) and we’re rehearsing parts of the show that we think we can make better. That’s why shows have previews, so you can strengthen and tighten and fix parts during the daytime and then try them out at night.

Right now, our Toxtacular terrific leading woman and mutant, Sara Chase and Nick Cordero, are running through the scenes that establish their relationship, trying to make these scenes as touching (while still being hysterically funny) as possible. Last night, at the culmination of their relationship, there was an audible outburst of females going “awww” in the audience, so we’re doin’ our job!

Here’s a fine theatrical example of what you learn in previews. In the drama-filled song, “Get the Geek,” this was last night’s sequence of events — The Mayor sends her two goons out to attack Melvin. Then, the Goons ingest a lot of drugs in preparation, then the Mayor sings a frenzied chorus of the song and, in her hysteria, she suddenly turns to the band’s guitarist and kisses him (and that guitarist happens to be Chris Cicchino, a long-haired rock stud.) Then the goons have a moment of entertaining gay panic, then Melvin enters and they attack him.

A nice, sensible dramatic through-line, right? Well, in performance, the audience laughed so hard after the Mayor suddenly kissed long-haired rock stud Chris Cicchino, that we couldn’t hear the gay panic moment. So we’ve decided to reverse the Mayor-kisses-rock-stud moment with the entertaining gay panic moment so both will be comprehensible and enjoyable. And though this may seem like an easy-to-do change, it means that David has to rewrite the music and Rando and the actors have to restage it and the band has to relearn it. So every little change can take a long time to rehearse and implement, but all this hard work makes for a better show. I don’t know if we’ll be able to get this change in tonight (though David is working his ass off to make it happen,) but I’ll give you a report on how it went as soon as it goes.

Also, tonight we’ll be videotaping our “Flo Says Go” videos. Flo is David’s mother, and while we were in Jersey, she took many of her friends from her Active Adult Retirement Community to see the show, and they had a blast. So we’ll be filiming Flo and some of her rockin’ BFF’s to get their reaction to tonight’s show. Look for the vid soon!

Anyway, I’m hoping that I don’t develop another fear-related rash before tonight’s show. Since last night went so well, I’m not expecting to, but given my terrified insane delicate state of existence during previews, you never know.

Faithfully yours with shocking calmness,
Joe

PREVIEW DAY 3: REHEARSAL PICS (IMPORTANT WARNING: NO CUTE DOG PICS!!!)

So sitting here in rehearsal on Friday afternoon, and director John Rando just told the actors to “pick it up from the lyric — “I’ll be your bookselling whore.” So all is normal in Toxieland.

Last night we had our second preview. And in theatre, there is a stomach-churning phenomenon (at least it’s stomach churning to this author) known as “Second Night.” “Second Night” basically means that the second performance of any show rarely goes as well as the first performance, since the first performance was fueled by nerves and excitement and terror (for some reason, that combination tends to create a really terrific evening of theatre.) Also, the audience for a second show doesn’t contain any rabid first-night fans of the show, so it generally takes the crowd a little longer to warm up to what they’re watching.

But in a true New Jersey miracle, I’m thrilled to report that our second preview went terrifically. The actors were sharper than ever and our “second night” audience laughed in the right places and applauded in the right places and seemed to have a helluva time. And I didn’t break out in a rash once! (note: see “first preview” blog for clarification.)

As smoothly as it all went, in order to entertain you Toxaholics, we’re back in rehearsal today trying to perfect anything we think we can make funnier/sharper/cooler/more touching, And I brought my camera along to record all the fun. And please note: neither I nor Nancy Opel brought our dogs today because we are TRUE THEATRE PROFESSIONALS. Yes, Rocco and Momo stayed home so there are no NO DOG PICTURES! I REPEAT, THERE ARE NO PICTURES OF ANY DOGS! Just people and dismembered arms.

First up, a pic of cast geniuses Sara Chase, Demon Green and Matthew Saldivar (not in costume but in fashionable street clothes) singing through their big “Oprah” number. Now, I bet many of you are saying: “Whaaaat? A big Oprah number in The Toxic Avenger?” My answer: “Oh yeah, baby.” And here they are about to rehearse the song on the set of Sarah the blind librarian’s apartment.


By the way, as they rehearse “Choose Me, Oprah,” our two fantastic and top-of-the-wedding-cake-beautiful understudies — Erin Leigh Peck and Nicholas Rodriguez — are also rehearsing off to the side, mimicking the dance moves they see on stage. Here’s an adorable picture of them. Seriously — just look at these two. People shouldn’t be that talented AND good-looking. It’s just not fair to the rest of us.


Please note: Erin and Nicholas are our ONLY understudies for the show. So Erin understudies all the female roles (Sarah the blind librarian as well as Ma Ferd/Mayor,) while Nicholas covers Melvin/Toxie and all the roles played by both the Black Dude and the White Dude. And both Dudes play, like, ten roles each. That a lot of dudes he has to cover.

While the actors works their butts off on the stage, director John Rando sits in the audience and shares his thoughts and feelings over “The God Mic,” which is called “The God Mic” because the person holding it (usually the director,) generally bellows out directions into it and his voice is heard throughout the theatre and folks tend to obey his commands. Every show has a God Mic in rehearsal, and someone in some show decided to name it by deifying it and that name has stuck. And amazingly, today Rando gently touched my leg while holding The God Mic and cured my knee injury.


Toxaholics mostly request that I post pictures of David, followed by requests for pics of the cast, then my dog, then backstage scenes. Once in a while, someone requests a picture of me, but it’s a rare occurance. Anyhoo, here’s a lovely picture of David with one of his favorites songbirds, Nancy Opel. David looooves that he can write ridiculously high notes for Nancy to belt, and she belts them out of the ballpark (well, actually, out of the theatre.)


Folks often wonder how choreographers figure out dance moves for the actors (actually, I have no idea if folks often wonder this or not, but I needed a lead-in to the next photo and it was the only thing I could think of.) Most choreographers work out dance moves with an assistant in order to see how the moves fit on each other. Here’s our spectacular and spunky choreographer, Wendy Seyb, and her assistant, Keith, coming up with some new moves to teach the actors. By the way, it looks like Keith is about to punch Wendy, but I think they’re just rehearsing our torrid tango, “Evil is Hot,” so they’re simply acting “with passion.”


In our backstage “quick change” area, it looks like someone mistakenly left their jacket and arm, right next to the guitar Matthew Saldivar plays when he sings “The Legend of the Toxic Avenger.”


That’s it for today’s action shots, Toxaholics. Hope you enjoyed. By the way, the advertising department (Allied Live) just came up with one of the FUNNIEST AD LINES I’VE EVER HEARD for our show. Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinkin’ — “Joe, you’re overhyping this! It couldn’t possilbe be ONE OF THE FUNNIEST AD LINES YOU’VE EVER HEARD.” Oh yeah, skeptical reader, get a load of this —

The Toxic Avenger: The craziest thing to come out of New Jersey since Whitney Houston!

See? Told ya. Love it, love it, love it.

Anyway, we’ve been workin’ hard and the show is really rockin’ and it should be fun to see it with a drunk fun weekend crowd! And tomorrow, I’ll give you a full report and post a few more rehearsal pics.

Okay, okay, I know I promised ‘no dog’ pics but, damn it, I couldn’t resist! Sorry, sorry, sorry. So I leave you with a reprise from last week of Rocco being a bit freaked out by a large mutant hand.


That’s too freakin’ adorable.

Note to self: Must fervently hope Whitney Houston doesn’t read this blog.

Love to you and yours and me and mine,
Joe

PREVIEW DAY #4: SATURDAY IN THE DARK

Hey Toxaholics,

So we had yet another very fun crowd at last night’s preview of Toxic Avenger! And it was a very diverse crowd, too — from teenagers to seniors — and the whole house seemed to have a great time. So I am soooo much calmer than I was just a few days ago. The only one who isn’t that happy about it all is my dog, who has been home a lot more lately since I’ve been running off to rehearsals and the show. But I actually have a day off (!) on Tuesday, so he’ll get some hang out time soon.

Now, usually we would have a matinee on a Saturday afternoon, but for this first week of previews, our producers have (generously!) decided to forgo money-making matinees (!) and give us some more rehearsal time instead. So though it’s a gorgeous and brisk, sunny day here in NYC, we are, once again, spending our afternoon in a faux Toxic waste dump deep in the heart of New World Stages. I hope you’re all having fun in the sunshine and thinking of us, hard at work for your entertainment pleasure.

A lot of the work that is done in the preview period concerns lighting, and our Tony-Award-laden designer, Kenny Posner, has given Toxic an amazing look. But for all the fancy lighting effects, one of the major rules of doing a comedy is that the actors need to be well-lit (as opposed to be hidden in interesting but moody shadows) for the audience to fully appreciate all the jokes. That’s what we’re working on right at this moment.

As promised, here are a few more rehearsal shots (and no dogs! no dogs! no dogs! And this time I mean it!!)

There are many costume and wig changes for our two Dudes (played sparkingly by Matthew Saldivar and Demon Green) and here is some of their hair resting between shows.


And here is our fight squad (Rick Sordelet and his right-hand fight-man David) going over the big dismemberment sequence in which Melvin emerges as Toxie and tears apart the two thugs that have been harrassing him. In the right portion of the pic, David seems to be explaining to Nick Cordero (i.e. The Toxic Avenger) how to pull out someone’s intenstines. In the center, Rick is explaining to Demon Green how to react when someone pulls your guts out. And to the left, Matthew Saldivar is waiting to hear how he should react when his spleen is ripped out (and he’s probably thinking that playing Kneckie in “Grease” was a lot less violent.)


In this pic, your action photographer is standing in the wings and giving you a behind-the-scene look at Nick (in character as Toxie with a macho pose) standing on a barrel so the lighting department can light him. By the way, actors have to be VERY patient when they’re being lit since they have to stand still for a long, long time (which actors ain’t used to) It’s just another thing they have to do to look pretty.


And here is Nick still being lit in the same spot from a backstage angle.


And here’s a look at our entire cast rehearsing the fnale (once again, for lighting purposes, so there’s no need for them to wear their costumes.) By the way, I took this shot from our mezzanine which we have rechristened — get this! — The Tox Box (cute name, no?) Basically, The Tox Box is sold on weekends and there will be a bartender stationed right there to help liquor you up before the show (if you so desire. The show is just as enjoyable sober.) We’re sort of trying to emulate a ‘sky box” sports experience, though you’re extremely close to the stage and there’s no glass partition between YOU and the action. Should be pretty cool up there. And here’s the view from The Tox Box!


Tonight, we have a Saturday night crowd, so (fingers-crossed) should be another rockin’ good house.

With simple, heartfelt love,
Joe

THE “SATURDAY NIGHT DATE” THEORY OF THEATREGOING

So last night was our fourth preview and our first full house (Yah!) It was also our first Saturday night performance.
And I bet ye Toxaholics are wondering how it went.

Well, here’s the thing about Saturday night audiences — they tend to be quieter than audiences on other nights of the week. That’s right, different audiences on different nights of the week have different personalities. And Saturday night audiences are notoriously known as dead sedate, generally because of the time-honored “Saturday Night Date” Theory of Theatregoing. Let me explain this complex theory to ye civilians —

Simply put, it is theorized that most Saturday night theatregoers have already been out enjoying a nice dinner (generally washed down with vino) so they enter the theatre full of food and slightly buzzed, so they’re already tired before the show even starts. And then one must also consider that many Saturday night theatregoers are on a date, which is very, very nice for them, but let’s face it — the guy on the date is probably just at the theatre biding time till the show’s over in hopes that they’ll go back to his place or her place and … well, you get the idea. (And yes, we theatrefolk really do come come up with these theories. And then we wind up discussing them till our brains hurt so we end up believing them as absolute truths.)

But I’m thrilled to report that last night “The Toxic Avenger” shot to hell the Saturday Night Date Theory of Theatregoing. Yes, our audience was just as rockin’ at ever! Much laughter, much applause, much happiness. Thank you, Saturday Nighters! So here’s hopin’ that all of you, uh, got what you wanted after the show ended.

Anyhoo, I thought I’d give you a little peek at some of our behind-the-scene folks today. You see, while our fantastic cast is busy entertaining you, backstage there is another show going on — props are being set up, costumes are being changed, and all sorts of backstage folks are making sure everything runs smoothly so the show doesn’t have to stop thereby giving the author an early heart attack.

The man in charge of it all is our stage manager, who sits in a glass-enclosed booth in the back of the theatre and
cues the various departments (lighting, music, sound, etc) when to do their thing. For all you stage management groupies, his name is Scott Rollison and he always wears a tie which makes him much classier than any else associated with this show.


And the person in charge of all the backstage mayhem is Kelly Hance. Considering she’s the one who ensures that the show moves at a breakneck speed, she is always (amazingly) smiling. Here, she is placing a prop podium on the set’s turntable, which is soon going to spin out onto the stage to set the scene for the show’s surprising and heartwarming conclusion.


Sitting above all the action like a crazed deity is our Musical Director Doug Katsaros, who recently grew new facial hair to celebrate Toxie’s launch (he calls it his “bass-player-from-Spinal-Tap look.”) As you can see by how he chose to pose when he saw my camera, he’s the perfect guy to conduct this show. (WARNING: YOUNG CHILDREN AND THOSE WITH WEAK CONSTITUTIONS SHOULD NOT VIEW THIS PICTURE!!)


Folks always call me up and ask, “Joe, there are so many quick changes in the show! Do the actors have a lot of room backstage to change their costumes?” I generally hang up on these people, but in answer to their question — No. There is barely any room. In fact, here is a pic (taken from above) of the area in which Nick Cordero has to transform himself from hapless Melvin into The Toxic Avenger. As you can see, it is about the size of a New York studio apartment.


Here’s the cast on stage rehearsing the finale while, pacing in front of them, is David, who is trying to figure out what musical note they should be singing. Yep, at this moment, David is hearing music in his head, a trait he shares with all other great composers. In fact, it is this ability to hear music in one’s head that makes a composer extra weird talented.


Here’s a picutre of David striking a Superman pose and trying to figure out a new musical entrance for the song “Big Green Freak.” Behind him, Nick Codero and Nancy Opel are patiently waiting for him to tell them what the new musical cue will be. P.S. Notice that Nancy is actually knitting while on-stage. Yes, as you faithful Toxaholic blog readers know, rehearsals can move a little sloooooow, so Nancy is able to get some serious knitting time in (while others get serious Suduko time in.) By the way, David finally figured out the cue, so the superman pose paid off.


Yes, not only is Nancy Opel an insanely talented performer, she’s also an expert knitter, and she can do both at the same time. In this particular scene, she’s playing Melvin’s guilt-throwing mother, and oddly, the knitting works well for the character.


I leave you now with my favorite pic of the day — here are Demond Green and Matthew Saldivar rehearing a tender moment between the two maniacal goons — Sluggo and Bozo. It is a moment of great love and passion broken only when someone walks by and they decide to beat the hell out of him instead. (Please note: the table that you see in the picture is what is known as a “Tech Table.” During rehearsals, tables like this are set up throughtout the theatre so the creative team can put all our crap important theatrical stuff on them.)


With rapture,
Joe

A PUBLIC SERVICE FOR CONFUSED THEATREGOERS

So we’re sitting in a Monday afternoon rehearsal and tomorrow is our (eagerly-awaited) day off! There’s no performance and no rehearsal on Tuesday, so the actors will get to rest their bodies and voices, and the crew and the creative staff will get to chill. I’ll be hangin’ with the dog and oversleeping and things like that. Oh yeah, and I’m happy to report that Sunday night’s performance went terrifically — another packed house of Toxaholics who clearly didn’t want the weekend to end.

By the way, the other night we had our furthest-travelled audience member — a lovely young woman named Keiko — who is obviously a huge Joe DiPietro David Bryan fan. Keiko flew all the way from Japan (!) just to see our show. Fortunately, she loved it (and thank goodness ’cause it would be terrible to fly that far and go, ‘eh.’) So many thanks, Keiko, for making the journey! (Note: As for true Joe DiPietro fans, I do have some relatives who may be willing to travel to the show all the way from mid-New Jersey but only if “they feel confident of the parking situation.”)

And to celebrate our first terrific week in New York, I have decided to answer an often-asked question. You see, each day I receive thousands of hand-written letters asking — –

“Joe, there are so many shows that are opening this season and I have a hunch that they’re all probably better than yours. Why should I go see “The Toxic Avenger” instead of them? Sincerely, Confused Theatregoer.”

Well, these people’s confusion is totally understandable. So as a public service to the non-Toxaholic, theatre-going public, I am going to analyze the current season honestly and without prejudice, thus helping you — the confused theatregoer — figure out if you should see The Toxic Avenger or another show which probably sucks.

Please note: I have not seen most of the shows! But like most people on the internet, I don’t feel as if I need to have actually seen an show to comment on it.

BILLY ELLIOT — Okay, I saw Billy Elliot in London and it was pretty fantastic. But it’s also a hard ticket to get to it so why waste time trying to score tickets and not being able to get them and thus feeling like a loser. You can easily buy a seat for The Toxic Avenger right now and you’ll feel like a winner!! Go winner!

WAITING FOR GODOT and EXIT THE KING — These two plays are by Ionesco and Beckett, two masters of ‘absurdist comedy.” Now for all of you non-theatre majors out there, “absurdist comedy” means “has no plot.” This usually is not “a good thing.”

IRENA’S VOW — All I know about this play is that it’s a worthy drama about the Holocaust, which means it will probably win an Oscar even though it’s a play. And though it does sound “worthy,” wouldn’t you rather see something “not worthy,” and The Toxic Avenger certainly qualifies as that.

IMPRESSIONISM — I know nohing about this play except for the title. And I don’t really like the title so I don’t think you should go.

GOD OF CARNAGE — I saw this in London and I really liked it and it has a terrific cast on Broadway. So now that I said that I bet you’re thinkin’ — “Aha! This one I’m gonna go see!” Well not so fast, Mr or Ms Easily Persuadable. This play stars Jame Gandolfini who starred in the one of the greatest TV series of all time that also happened to have one of the worst, WTF endings of all time. I mean, c’mon — cutting to black in the middle of a scene is not a freakin’ ending — it’s a creative black hole. So if you go see God of Carnage, in some way you’re saying, “Hey, it’s okay if you don’t give us an ending after I’ve watched your show for SIX FREAKIN’ YEARS.” So I firmly recommend that you do not go see this play as not to encourage such behavior.

WEST SIDE STORY — Okay, it’s a great show but haven’t we all seen the movie like 800 times? And if you haven’t seen the movie, Maria’s jilted-boyfriend Chino winds up killing Tony in the end just as Tony’s running into Maria’s arms. Whoops! I should’ve written SPOILER ALERT before that sentence. Oh well I didn’t, so now even if you’ve never seen the movie you know how it ends so there’s no reason for you to go see the show. Oh yeah, and Riff gets killed in the rumble.

HAIR — Actually, I, uh, really want to see Hair ’cause I heard it was really good. So just forget I ever mentioned it.

NINE TO FIVE — Well, everyone loves Dolly Parton. But she’s not in the play! So the whole night you’ll be going, “Gee, I wish I was staring at Dolly Parton right now.” So I’ve just saved you that trouble.

BLITHE SPIRIT — Okay, the main attraction here is obviously Angela Lansbury. And sure, she’s a brilliant actress, but look at it this way — most Broadway shows have a softball team in the Broadway show league. And I bet every other show in town can kick the Blithe Spirit softball team’s ass. Plus, Angela Lansbury may be a brilliant actress, but I bet she’s a lousy shortstop. So why go see a show with such a loser softball team?

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA – It’s been running for 73 years, so if you haven’t seen it by now you’re probably never going to go see it so don’t even think about it.

And there are plenty of other shows that are part of this theatrical season, but I can’t remember what they are right now so I would definitely recommend Toxic over them.

Well, there you have it, theatregoer. I hope this cleared things up for you. Obviously, the only show you should go see is THE TOXIC AVENGER!*

(except if you can get into Billy Elliot or Hair.)

Anyway, I’m looking forward to our day off! As a matter of fact, I’m so looking forward to it I strongly suggest that all you Toxaholics take Tuesday off, too. Just call your boss and tell them that I suggested … actually, don’t mention me. Just tell them you’re sick of taking all their crap and then go back on Wednesday and profusely apologize. That should do it.

See ya here on Wednesday for the start of Week Two!

Hugs with an inappropriate squeeze,
Joe

PREVIEW WEEK #2: FEAR OF BLACK WEDNESDAY

So last night was the first preview of our 2nd week of previews — the day I call “Black Wednesday.” Let me explain —

About 15 years ago when I was but a clueless starry-eyed lad with big theatrical dreams and little theatrical knowledge, I wrote a show entitled “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” which debuted in New Jersey’s American Stage Company. Being anidiot novice, I was simply thrilled that an actual professional company with actual professional actors was performing my show!

The first week of our preview period went terrifically. People were laughing and applauding and I thought to myself — “This is easy! I have a gloirous career as a writer ahead of me! Hurrah!” Following our Sunday performance, we took two days off, with me certain that I had written a beautiful hit that audiences would forever love. Thus, filled with this newfound brio, I returned to the theatre on Wednesday expecting the hilarity to continue. And on this day, the actors Helen Hunt and Hank Azaria were in attendence (they were friends of the director) so I had real life STARS in the audience. I was living the dream, baby.

So the show started and the curtain rose on my sure-fire laughfest and — no one laughed. Not during the first scene, nor the second nor the third. Okay, there may have been a few politie twitters during the show, but trust me, they were those horrible ‘sympathy” laughs that audience members make when they’re watching a show they don’t find remotely funny but they feel sorry for the actors.

Tell you the truth, I don’t really remember if we even got sympathy laughs or not, because by then I had entered the “dark hole of playwrighting” — that despondent place where a playwright thinks — “I have no talent! I am a fraud! My work has amounted to nothing! Nothing! Nothing!”

Okay, now I bet you nice Toxaholics are saying — “C’mon Joe, it couldn’t have been that bad!” Oh, yeah? Do you have any idea what a sketch comedy becomes when no one laughs? It becomes a series of dramatic vignettes — shallow dramatic vignettes. Not pretty. Hank and Helen were very polite about the show, but by the time I saw them afterwards I was envisioning a possible career as a bartender. This day — the Wednesday when previews re-start — has forever been known to me as Black Wednesday.

Back to the present! So last night, I entered Toxic with powerful memories of Black Wednesday messing with my head. But lo and behold — no Black Wednesday for Toxic, baby! The cast was somehow even funnier than ever and the audience ate them up with a toxic spoon (sorry, I don’t really understand what I just wrote there. Instead, let me say — “the audience laughed their asses off.” There, that makes more sense.) But thank you, Theatrical Gods! Has the curse of Black Wednesday been broken forever?

(By the way, happy ending to the Black Wednesday story — that audience was a total aberration. I Love You became the biggest hit ever at American Stage and then went on to run twelve years in New York City. Wouldn’t it be great if ALL stories had a really happy ending like that? Sigh.)

Okay, a couple today’s rehearsal pics for ya —

Nick Cordero had to work out a few things while wearing his Toxic mask, but he didn’t need to get into the rest of his costume. So here is what The Toxic Avenger would look like if he went to a prep school —


And here is preppy Toxie rehearsing the “Helen Keller joke scene” with the brilliantly funny — and I don’t throw either of those words around easily — Sara Chase.


And here is what it would look like if an actual mutant freak came to see the show and he put on a collared shirt for the evening.

And since Toxaholics have been demanding begging mildly suggesting that I post another pic of myself, here I am standing next to a handsome cardboard cut-out that rests right outside of our theatre.


Okay, Toxaholics …

Truly, Madly, Deeply, but not too Deeply that it becomes gross,
Joe

PREVIEW WEEK #2: MORE OF YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED!

Hello, Toxaholics! I’m back from my day off and at your service once again.

So today we begin our 2nd (of 3) week of previews. Now, this is the more cushy week of previews. The first week was nothiing but terrifying (will the audience like us or did I just waste 2 years of my freakin’ life writing this damn show!) Fortunately, they liked us. And next week is the week that critics will be attending our theatrical enterprise, so I will revert back into my attractive nervous/terrified mode.

But this week, I have confidence in our show (thanks, Week 1 audiences!) and there aren’t any pesky critics around (Note to critics: love me! love me! love me!) Also, whereas we were rehearsing four hours each day last week, this week, we’re only rehearsing two hours per day. Yes, that means our show is almost fully baked! We’re just putting a handful of changes in the show this week, so we don’t have to rehearse much.

Here’s a fun change we worked on today — one of Nancy Opel’s characters (I won’t say which one so I don’t have to write SPOILER ALERT) dies at the end of the show. And Nancy pointed out that everyone who dies in the show gets to have a cool, graphic death (mutilation, dismemberment, etc) while her character just sort of stumbles off-stage. “Can’t I have a cool, graphic death?” Nancy pleaded. So we answered the dear woman’s pleas and have given her a bloody, gross demise, and now she’s happy.

Anyway, since many of you have been sending me questions, I thought I’d welcome myself back to work by answering them!

Q: Will The Toxic Avenger Original Cast Recording be available to purchase on this site?
A: That is an excellent question! Why, it’s such an excellent question, I have no idea what the answer is. I suppose I could ask someone, but that would entail effort. So suffice it to say that even if the record isn’t directly availabe on this site, rest assured that this site will loudly and gaudily point you to where you can buy the CD. But the CD is going to be sold at le Stages de New World starting opening night (April 6th!) and should be available for purchase elsewhere shortly thereafter.

Q: Is The Toxic Avenger thinking about coming to Europe? I would definitely travel to see it, and it sounds much better than the crappy shows we have here.
A: Yes, we already (!) have intererest from producers in London and Germany, as well as Korea (not in Europe, I know, I know.) But we do hope to eventually play in those countries. Then we hope to play in the rest of Europe as well as Japan and Australia. Then we hope to take over the world and topple governments until we’ve fully reached global domination (David and I dream big.)

Q: Are you going to write a similar blog for Memphis?
A: Yes, I am planning on starting one when Memphis goes into rehearsals. Now, I’ve been sworn to secrecy as to when Memphis goes into rehearsals (mid-August) and when it opens on Broadway (mid-October,) so I can’t give you anymore information than that.

Q: I really like your writing. Have you ever thought about writing a book, or at least blogging about your adventures in musical theatre world?
A: I like writing plays better than books because plays have less words. However the idea of blogging more has caught my fancy, so I will maybe do that. Thanks for the encouragement!

Q: After Toxic Avenger and Memphis, what’s next for you and David? Will you be writing another show together?
A: Yep. We’re planning to write a lot more show together. We’ve already started one but its subject matter is TOP SECRET (it’s about songwriters set against the backdrop of The Brill Building in the early ’60’s.) But it’s gonna be cool.

Q: I saw The Toxic Avenger at George Street and I saved one of the green balloons that fell at the end. Will there be more green balloons in this version?
A: SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! Yes, there will be more green balloons. END SPOILER ALERT.

Q: The question about green balloons wasn’t a real question, was it?
A: Yes, a Toxaholic actually asked that!

Q: Who uses more hair product? You or David?
A: Definitely David. He still has long, flowing locks. I have a bald spot that I’m trying to convince to stop growing.

Q: Will you be taking a date to the opening of Toxic Avenger, or will you be going by your sad, lonesome self like you usually do?
A: No comment, next question.

Q: You just answered my question by refusing to comment.
A: I said, “next question.”

Q: All this writing you do is well and good, but I’d rather see more pictures of your dog. Could you post more of them soon?
A: I could, but wouldn’t you rather talk about the creation of a glorious piece of theatre?
A: No, I’d rather see more pictures of your dog.


Q: I am obsessed with your guitarist, long-haired rock stud Chris Cicchino. If I stalk him, do you think there’s a chance he will sleep with me?
A: Chris is a highly moral man, and he will absolutely not sleep with a woman until 12 dates or 3 beers, whichever comes first.

Q: What about you? If I stalk you, will you sleep with me?
A: Yes, I have no such moral code.

Q: Unquestionably, the two biggest theatre stars in New York right now are Angela Lansbury and The Toxic Avenger. If both were visiting the same small town and a murder took place, which would most likely solve it first?
A: Wow. Tough, tough question. Probably Lansbury, just based on experience. Excellent question though, thanks for asking.

Q: When I see a musical about a green mutant freak, I expect the plot to be entirely logical. But one plot point REALLY bugs me about your show — when The Mayor and The Toxic Avenger meet up at the Tromaville docks, he chokes her but vows that he won’t destoy her until he’s exposed the evil that she’s done. Well, why doesn’t he just kill her there AND still expose the evil that she’s done. That way, he also would prevent her from doing any more evil. It just doesn’t make sense and it clearly is a major flaw with your writing.
A: If you knew anything, you’d know that all superhero stories MUST follow the Batman TV Series rules of writing. Remember when in every episode Batman and Robin were captured and the villain set up a convulted way for them to die and then left them alone, giving them tons of time to escape. And the villains never learned that maybe they should stay in the room and make sure the convulted death-machines actually worked? Why did the villains never do this? Because then Batman would’ve been killed and the series would’ve been over. Same logic here. Phew. I think I explained myself pretty well.

All right, Toxaholics — reports of Week 2 will soon be emitting from my computer!

Rested and tan and full of life,
Joe

PREVIEW WEEK #3: THE CHAT ROOMS

Hey Toxaholics!

It’s day 2, week 3 of previews and the critics are pouring in to see the show. Of course, in our new technological age, everyone is (literally) a critic, and last night, I met a group of bloggers who had came to check us out. They were from Yelp, and if you don’t know what Yelp is, shame on you! (Actually, I had no idea what Yelp was, so you can share in my shame.) But Yelp is a cool website that plays host to a lot of cool bloggers who happened visit Toxic last night. It was great to meet them and I hope they all loved me as much as I loved them, unconditionally and with nothing but gushy praise.

But talking to these bloggers got me thinking — I bet other folks have been writing about Toxic on the internet (outside of the fantastic Toxaholics on this website, of course.) Hmmmm…I must pursue this thought.

So today, with blogsuperstar Rocco passed out at my feet, I decided to journey into the internet wilderness to see how The Toxic Avenger is holding up in cyberspace. I started with the the New York Times site ’cause I remembered that they post reader reviews. Now, I always approach reading anything about my work with great trepidation, since if 8000 people say nice things about my work and one person says something mean, all I can forever think about is the one mean thing (Don’t believe me? Have 10 friends compliment you on how terrific you’re looking and then have one person tell you that you look as if you’ve gained weight, and see which thought sticks)

So I bravely and with a minimum of alcohol checked out the Readers Reviews in the theatre section of the Times, where I found that Toxic has received — get this — a five star rating! And the latest review had the very cool headline “A RIP (YOUR ARM OFF) ROARING GOOD TIME! Gotta love it! Thanks witty writers of reader’s reviews!!

Newly emboldened by my sudden good fortune, I decided to check out the terrifying enjoyable
theatre chat rooms. Now for those of you unfamilar with the terrain, there are two primary theatre chat rooms that cater to intense and passionate theatre lovers, and each is loaded with bitchy spirited debates over the various merits of every show in town (especially the musicals.)

So first I headed over to Broadwayworld.com, which also happens to link to this blog every day, so I think that they are THE BEST THEATRE WEBSITE EVER. I went to their message boards, searched for Toxic Avenger, and, to my delight, once again — nothin’ but good words for us! My fav was from Singtopher, who in trying to convince another board user to see Toxic, wrote — “The lady sitting next to me stopped breathing because she was laughing so hard.” I LOVE SINGTOPHER!! And I hope that lady is still alive.

Now even more emboldened, I headed over to the other theatre chat mecca, All That Chat. This is the type of board where if someone writes that they loved “Hair,” BAM!, two people immediately write that they hated “Hair” and the person who loved “Hair” must be a moron. It’s like if the American Gladiators did theatre criticism. And I just adore it..

So I scrolled down — a feeling of dread settled in my stomach — and the first Toxic thread I come across is headlined — “Toxic Avenger is so damn entertaining!” Yowser! It was written by Musicaldirny, and just for the record — I LOVE MUSICALDIRNY!

As for the remainder of thread, the chatters discussed about how everyone should all worship at the genius of Nancy Opel, to which I fully agree (INTERESTING THEOLOGICAL FACT: It is now possible to actually worship Nancy Opel because Nancy has recently formed her own religion, Momo, named after her dog. And I’m pretty certain she’s taking tax deductible contritubtions now.) In the rest of the thread, there was a little spirited back and forth about the show, but overall, these chatters liked it a whole lot! And believe you me, these All That Chatters are a tough, seasoned crowd.

So now emboldened beyond words, I scrolled down even further and what did I come upon but another great headline “Toxic Avenger = Amazing!” by Natalielovestheatre (and yes, I love Natalie!) Why, if you ask me, Natalielovestheatre = Amazing! Thanks Nats! If you ever need money or someone to carry your child or something, gimme a shout.

So it just goes to show you, Toxaholics, when you write a show about a mutant freak from New Jersey, people may still love you anyway.

Oh yeah, quick reality check: There was one AllThatChatter who said our show was awful not the best show they’ve ever seen. Of course, I am way too dignified to mention their name (Crisnyc,) but I’m sure this chatter (Crisnyc) is a wonderful person who has contributed greatly to society and has a first-class, sophisticated sense of humor. God bless.

All my boundless love to everyone on earth (execpt Crisnyc),
Joe

PREVIEW WEEK 2: A HARROWING DOG REENACTMENT

Great news, Toxaholics!

Last night’s show was Fantoxic (that is a word coined by our PR whiz Richard Hillman, who spent 10 years as Helen Reddy’s back-up singer. That’s right, a dude stood behind her all that time and sang back-up to “I Am Woman.” Rock ‘n roll is a crazy world.) Anyway, last night’s audience was so loud and laugh-filled that I wanted to take them home and have their baby.

In fact, things have been going so well that today our directorman, TonyAwardBoy John Rando, decided to ‘freeze’ the show! That means we’re done changing lines or adjusting light cues or yelling at each other in rehearsal or
fixing blocking. Which means — no more rehearsal! Yay! This means that actors will get to perfect their performances for all five (!) shows this weekend prior to our onslaught welcoming of critics next week!

And to celebrate our final rehearsal today, composer David Bryan and I didn’t show up for it! Double yay! Actually, we were in a rehearsal studio on Eighth Avenue auditioning dancers for our forthcoming megamusical “Memphis” (coming this fall to a really cool Broadway theatre which I can’t mention to you or I’ll be killed.) Anyway, the most amazing and humbling thing about casting a Broadway show is the level of talent that you see — so many of the young folks who auditioned today could sing AND dance AND act AND do backflips. David and I were in awe. We wish we could cast them all but that would mean that “Memphis” would have a chorus of 150 people and the tickets would cost about $4000 (actually, that’s only about fifty bucks more than Broadway tix cost now.)

So while David and I were being awed, Rando and his merry group of actors were doing some final rehearsing. I REALLY wanted to be there to take some final rehearsal pics for you loyal Toxaholics, because that’s the kind of guy I am. But fear not! Since I feel sooo guilty about shirking my picture-taking-blogging duties, I have reached down into my creative soul and decided to do the next best thing — I have enlisted blog superstar and perpetually- exhausted canine, Rocco, to reenact some seminal moments from today’s rehearsal. Yes, theatrical photo journalism at its finest.

The major change that they rehearsed today was — WAIT! STOP READING IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE SHOW! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SERIOUSLY, I’M NOT KIDDING! THIS IS AN ACTUAL SPOILER ALERT, NOT A TEST! Anyhoo, the major change that they rehearsed today involved the scene where Toxie goes on a rampage and mauls an old lady. SEE, I TOLD YOU THAT WAS A REAL SPOILER ALERT! WHY DID YOU CONTINUE READING? BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO WILL POWER, THAT’S WHY!

So though I wasn’t there, I spoke for hours on the phone with fight expert Rick Sordelet, who explained to me — in graphic, precise detail — how the sequence looks on stage now. So please enjoy this harrowing reanactment in which Toxie (played by Rocco) approaches The Adorable Old Lady (played by Rocco’s Alligator Beanie Baby from Florida) and begins to maul her.


The mauling is over in a flash, and Toxie sucks the remaining life out of The Adorable Old Lady.


You can practically smell the carnage, can’t you?

Also today, they rehearsed the final scene in the show and ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT! AND I ALREADY TOLD YOU IT’S THE FINAL SCENE SO YOU BETTER STOP READING NOW OR YOU’RE GOING TO HATE YOURSELF! AND IF YOU HAVE SELF-ESTEEM ISSUES ALREADY THEN CONTINUING TO READ IS ONLY GOING TO EXASPERATE THOSE ISSUES SO YOU REALLY BETTER STOP READING NOW! Anyhoo, here is the final scene in the show in which Sarah (played by Rocco’s squeaky stuffed pug) cries over the lifeless body of Toxie. SEE I TOLD YOU TO STOP READING! THAT WAS ONE SERIOUS SPOILER YOU JUST READ, WASN’T IT?


And finally, here is Toxic Avenger star Nick Cordero taking an Actor’s Equity-mandated nap after a long day of rehearsal.


Well, I hope that photo esay was helpful. Whether or not I actually show up to work, I’m always there for you Toxaholics —

By the way, my parents are driving in tomorrow from New Jersey’s Enchantment Active Adult Retirement Community. We’re going to have dinner then I’m taking them to see the show so it should be exhausting terrific! I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Your cyber pal,
Joe

PREVIEW WEEK #2: SALUTE TO MERHANDISE!

So for this evening’s rockin’ Saturday night performance, my Mom & Dad drove in from New Jersey’s own Enchanted Active Adult Community (Exit 7A) to see a delightful show.

But as soon as we entered the New World Stages Theatrical Shrine, my mom disappeared! Where did she go, I wondered, somewhat concerned. But then I realized — Of course! The Merchandise Kiosk! And there she was, having wedged her way in front of a gaggle of teenage girls, all mesmerized by the glittering display of Toxic mugs and tee shirts and key chains!

This should not have surprised me, because one of the first questions a true Toxaholic asks me is, “Will there be merchandise to buy at you show?” I, of course, respond — “Who cares about the stupid merchandise! Aren’t you more excited about seeing the actual show?” The true Toxaholic, of course, states, “Yeah, yeah, whatever. But as any serious student of theatre knows, any show is only as good as the tee shirts it sells. So what you got?”

And they do have a point. I mean, can you imagine if you had one of the original souvenier tee shirts from the original Greek production of Oedipus Rex? That thing would be worth millions! Even if you accidently washed it with bleach once.

So here is a glimpse of the Toxic Merchandise stand that greets audience members as they enter and leave the theatre, and subliminally whispers — “why see a show unless you can wear the logo on your chest tomorrow…buy me!” I have to start with Toxaholic merchandise maven Matthew enthusiastically displaying the latest and greatest Toxic stuff —


And here is our dazzling display of tee shirts, mugs and key chains that Matthew sells to true theatregoers every night —


And here is a close up (and weird angle) on my fav Toxie tee — Totally Toxic.


And here is my mother taking a break from shopping at the merchandise center to pose with cardboard Toxie and my Dad —


All right, Joe, enough blatant marketing! How the hell did your parents like the show, you ask? I’m happy to report that they loved the show, except for the obscenity, violence and sexual content (meaning, they loved about 5 minutes of it.) Still, they loved it, and that’s what counts! My mother also brought me a large bag of M&M’s which I left backstage after the show for the cast and crew, who somehow managed to suck down the entire bag in about 3 minutes, proving that either A) performing this show is quite the workout that leaves everyone ravenous, or B) we’re not paying them enough to buy actual food. Hopefully, the answer is A).

By the way, my favorite part of tonight’s rockin’ great show was during the penultimate scene in which the entire town of Tromaville (all four of them) try to save the withering Toxie. Well tonight, someone from the audience shouted out, “Cmon, Toxie!” during this dramatic, hushed moment, causing the entire audience to laugh uproariously. Remarkably, the actors stayed in character and never started laughing themselves. But the folks are rooting for Toxie, which is a good sign.

We’ve had such a good second week of previews, I’ve decided to reward you easily-rewarded Toxaholics and post a couple more rehearsal pics rom early this week —

Here is our directorman, John Rando, directing Nancy Opel and Sarah Chase to stand somewhere and say something. Please note: though Nancy is dressed as Ma, she is in Sarah’s apartment but Ma doesn’t have a scene in Sarah’s apartment, so I have no idea what she’s doing there. Also, notice that Nancy is wearing a pair of jeans underneath Ma’s costume. This is all very curious …


And here is our entire cast, seemingly wandering aimlessly around the stage during rehearsals though they are actually rehearsing their bows (that’s right, even bows have to be rehearsed.) And notice that Nick is wearing his Toxie mask (hopefully because he had to and not because he’s grown overly fond of it.)


Toxicrifically yours,
Joe

HISTORIC THEATRICAL FIRST — AUTHOR LIVEBLOGS OWN SHOW!!

Hello Toxaholics,

In the past, some critics have accused my work of sucking not being on the cutting edge. Well, in order to jump so firmly on the cutting edge that I’ve actually gone over the cutting edge to find a new edge that not only cuts but slices and dices, I have decided to partake in an historic first — I will be the first author in the history of theatre to LIVE BLOG a performance of my own show. That’s right, Toxaholics, at tonight’s Sunday preview, I will be LIVE BLOGGING all the (hopeful) hilarity for you. Of course, since I have no idea how to technically make the blog actually live, I will just type it all in and post it when I get home.

7:04: So I’ve just arrived at the theatre and the show is going to start any second. And I mean, ANY second. See, I forgot that the show starts at 7:00 PM on Sundays, and I didn’t realize my error until, oh, 6:35 PM (oops.) So I quickly found a clean shirt and petted the dog and ran out the door and … oh, the giant Toxic roar just sounded. The usual nervous giggle from the audience. Here goes, Toxic!

7:05: The first potential big laugh of the evening is about to come up (When Matt Saldivar sings “New Jersey”…) here it comes … here it comes … and he nailed it! Nice loud laugh from the audience. This tells me it’s gonna be a fun night.

7::07: The Nun just sang “Jersey’s not your bitch,” and the audience roared. They are my kind of peeps.

7:11: Sara Chase just performed one of my favorite moments in the show — as she talks with Melvin Ferd the Third about the troubles of Tromaville, she tries shelving some books but she misses the shelf every time. Sara really is an incredibly gifted comedienne and this is the moment when the audience realizes “Oh, so they’re going to go THERE.”

7:18: Matt Saldivar just got exit applause for his first appearance as Sal the Cop. Keep in mind, he’s on stage in this scene for about a minute — actually, it’s not even a scene, it’s a transition. And he got exit applause. God love him.

7:25: Toxie (Nick Cordero) is singing “Thank God, She’s Blind,” and Nick is lovingly twirling one of his strands of hanging goo as if it were a schoolgirl’s braid. This cracks me up (as well as the audience.) Though he spends most of the show wearing a mask, Nick is able to be so sweet and funny and strong and vulnerable. That ain’t easy to do behind latex. He really is terrific in this role.

7:31: Toxie picked up the container of Clorox (that he tries to use to clean the toxic goo off him) — and the container broke! Clorox (actually, it’s really crushed-up alka seltzer) is now spilt all over the stage. With nothing to clean it up, Nick continues on with the scene.

7:34: Now, Ma (Nancy Opel) is trying to wipe up some of the Clorox/Alka Seltzer with a rag, but it’s not really working. Will a stagehand have to eventually come out and sweep it all up? This is the excitment of live theatre, folks!

7:37: Oh-oh! The first joke that was supposed to get a laugh and didn’t just happened. Damn. And I just put it in a couple of days ago. See, Toxie is being examined by Professor Ken, and Toxie sings, “So this is how I’ll be for all time?” and Professor Ken answers, “Yeah.” Toxie continues — “A freak of nature oozing slime?” And Professor Ken replies, “There are worse things that you could be. I just can’t think of any.” (that was supposed to be the laugh.)
Well, not one single person laughed, And Demond Green, who plays Professor Ken, is one of those actors who can make anything funny (he’s really unbelievable in the show — and remarkably this is NYC debut!) So I just whipped out my blackberry and jotted down a potential new line for the professor to say –“It’s okay, Jersey is full of them.” I’ll have Demond try it out tomorrow night. Okay, back to the action —

7:46: The romance-infusedt musical intro to “Hot Toxic Love” just started and the guy in front of me lovingly placed his head on his lady’s’ shoulder. Man, this lovely-dovey dude is so trying to finesse his way to some lovin’ after the show.

7:48: Sara has just started her chorus of “Hot Toxic Love,” and Nick has just picked up a dustpan and small broom that have been discreetly placed on the set. Brilliant! So while Sara is singin’ her heart out, Nick is on his knees sweeping up the Clorox/Alka Seltzer. I’m sure the audience is a bit confused as to why Toxie is sweeping while Sarah is singing her part of their big love duet, but no matter. They’re still getting their laughs and the stage is now Clorox/Alka Seltzer free!

7:50: “Hot Toxic Love” just finished and the lovey-dovey dude just got a kiss from his lady. He is sooo gettin’ some action tonight.

7:53: A young woman in the front row just got up to go to the restroom. As an author, I believe that no one should ever leave my show to go to the bathroom, no matter how badly they have to go. But she ran up the aisle like FloJo so I take it that means she wants to get back as soon as possible. Phew.

8:00 Another young lady makes a run up the aisle for the bathroom. Hurry back!!

8:06: Nancy Opel just sang her duet with Nancy Opel and the audience went nuts for her, as usual. This woman is so freakin’ brilliant.

8:08: Now a guy just ran to the bathroom. WTF? Did this audience come from a Beer Drinking Festival or something?

8:15: Yikes, Nick just fell on his butt! Toxie is in the middle of singing “Everybody Dies” and he took a step back and BLAM. Right on his ass. He recovers quickly and deftly, and he clearly isn’t hurt. Toxie then goes on to kill an adorable old lady with no problem.

8:32: Toxie just collapsed on the ground, which somehow scared a group of ladies sitting in the front row. They’re so delighted at being scared, though, that they have started to loudly giggle. And it doesn’t seem like they can stop themselves. Now, the rest of the audience is giggling with them. The actors soldier on bravely.

8:42: The green ballons just dropped from the ceiling in celebration of our ending. The audience, as always, is happily knocking them about. Somehow each night, The Toxic Avenger reduces three-hundred adults to giddy children.

8:44: Show just finished to a tremendous ovation! Author is happy, happy, happy!

8:46: David Bryan rushes up to me to tell me that the only thing that didn’t work for him is Professor Ken’s line: “There are worse things that you could be. I just can’t think of any.”

8:46:30: I read Mr. Bryan the new line which I ALREADY WROTE (Ha!) and he is happy.

8:48: David and I decide to go have a couple of drinks in the bar. Then we decide to go out and have something to eat as well as a few more drinks.

12:31: I come home to file this blog. Faithful dog, Rocco, who has been sleeping for 5 hours, now is jumping up and down to greet me as if I’ve just come back from a moon launching.

12:32: In order to reward faithful dog, I generously decide to offer to walk him before I post my eagerly-anticipated blog.

12:33: Faithful dog realizes it’s raining so he refuses to go for a walk.

12:34: Annoyed owner insists faithful dog has to go for a walk now, and I mean now.

12:35: Faithful dog jumps on couch and pretends to be asleep in order to avoid walk. Annoyed owner decides to call it a night and file HISTORIC THEATRICAL BLOG.

Historically yours,
Joe

PREVIEW WEEK 3: THE CRITICS COMETH

Greetings Good Toxaholics,

Well, today starts the final week of my blog, “THE CREATION OF THE TOXIC AVENGER,” proving that all great good mildly amusing things must come to an end. Though,of course, this blog will live on for many years as high-level academic scholars use it to study, uh, uh, uh — important theatrical stuff.

But tune in everyday from now until OPENING NIGHT, APRIL 6TH for complete FINAL WEEK OF PREVIEW blogging.

Today, Tuesday, is our day off (yay!) and David and I relaxed by doing an interview on Playbill Radio, which will be available as a podcast starting next week (I think) on Playbill.com (I think.) I should know this information but it seems to be nowhere in my brain.

Anyhoo, my favorite part of the interview was when David started to sing Toxie & Sarah’s big love duet, “Hot Toxic Love,” and he completely forgot the words. Ha! He sang the first line perfectly, then he mumbled something for the second line, then for the third line he pretty much started singing “la la la,” unitl he finally stopped and wondered, “What the heck are the lyrics?” though he used much more colorful language than that. (important note to self: discourage David from reading today’s blog entry.) Anyway, after being reminded of THE LYRICS HE WROTE, he sang a great acoustic version of the song. And I think you can maybe hear it sometime soon on maybe Playbill.com! And I’m sure they’ll edit out the-composer-doesn’t-know-his-own-lyrics part, but it’d be REALLY FUNNY if they didn’t.

So tomorrow (Wednesday) starts our final week of previews, which is great because the show is rockin’ and ready to officially open (and I’m ready to take a long-needed nap.) Now, at each performance this week, there will be several critics in the audience. And just to set the record straight — I ABSOLUTELY LOVE ALL CRITICS. And to set the record even straighter –I WANT THEM ALL TO ABSOLUTELY LOVE ME. Yes, I’ll admit it. And you know how most playwrights claim they never read reviews? Not me, boy. Nope. I read’em. Then I reread’em. Then I obsess over every adjective. If they say something nice, I am elated and I overtip cabdrivers and Chinese food delivery men. And if they don’t say something nice, I dive into a depression that would make Zelda Fitzgerald look happy-go-lucky in comparison.

But I do hope that the critics say exactly what they feel about the show, for I would never, ever stoop so low as to reveal that I have a terrible playwright disease and this will probably be my last show. I would never make that fact known to anyone (actually, this is merely a silly rumor that I started read on the internet.) No, I want the critical community to love my work purely based on artistic merit alone (and really, when one is talking “art,” how can one deny “The Toxic Avenger?” It’s the show Michelangelo would’ve written if he had written shows and wasn’t brilliant.)

So if any of you critics who I ABSOLUTELY LOVE happen to be reading this, I ask that you only say nice things about the show if you enjoy it,and not for any other reason. After all, though most other playwrights would stoop really low to become a critical darling (I’m talking you, Moliere!) — I would NEVER stoop so low as to — oh, I don’t know — show you a picture of my adorable, easily depressed puppy who goes into a funk whenever I go into a funk —


No, I am bigger than that. Also, to prove that I am, indeed, “bigger than that,” I am not going to list THE TEN MOST DEGRADING THINGS I WILL DO TO GET A GOOD REVIEW (though seven of them are regularly performed on Cinemax Late Night. Check your local listings.)

Now I know what you’re silently asking me — “But Joe, what the hell are you nervous about? I mean, don’t you have faith in the show?! The actors?! Your writing partner even though he forgets the words to his own song?!”

Well, of course I do, Toxaholics, of course I do. Damn it, now you’ve got me misting up a bit. Okay, I’m better. And let me point out that normally, at this point I AM A COMPLETE NERVOUS WRECK — I can’t sleep, I lose the ability to fom complete sentences, I question my life choices, I start watching “Charles in Charge” reruns and find them compelling. But this time, I am much saner than I usual am on Critics Eve. So I guess that maybe, just maybe, I do have faith that it will all work out in the end. Thanks, Toxaholics, I feel better!

Oh by the way, Nancy Opel’s dog, Momo, also gets depressed if she gets a bad review. I’m just sayin —

Nervously but not excessively nervously and maybe even surprisingly calmly yours,
Joe

EXPERT AUDIENCE ANALYSIS BY AN OBSESSIVE THEATRE PROFESSIONAL

Afternoon, Toxaholics.

Yes, it is the afternoon of 1st Critic’s Performance Day (yay!) and an eerie calm has befallen the DiPietro household (I’m relaxed, dog is snoring.) The Toxic actors and band and crew have been rockin’ it for two weeks now, so I feel as if we’re totally ready for the press to take a look at us — so bring it on (and please press, remember that I absolutely LOVE you all.)

Now, since the critics will be coming to every performance this week, I will be in the back of the theatre pacing hyperventilatingvomiting sitting, watching how well the audience reacts to each and every moment of our show.

“But why will you be analyzing the audience,” you ask, wisely but with warmth.

“Because,” I answer, annoyed but not showing it, “every audience has its own personality, and I would hope that each critic gets to see Toxic with the most enthusiastic audience possible.”

Now, having sat in the back of theatres many, many times over the years, I’ve become an expert at analyzing the audience. So I’ve prepared this easy-to-read guide so when I tell you how the show went, I can use a simple “catch-phrase” to describe the audience in attendence

1 – THE HYEANAS. These folks have come to laugh and have a good time, and damn it, they do. And they’re very vocal about it. They laugh from the first moments of the show till the last. These crowds tend to be mostly made up of Italians, Jews, African-Americans, Gay Dudes, and New Jersey Cops — the aforementioned folks are also known as “David & Joe’s Peeps.” They laugh loudly, they applaud loudly, and they often talk back to the characters on stage as if they are real people.

2 – THE PROVE-IT-TO-ME’S: These folks are all urban dwellers who have seen way too many shows in their lifetimes and have spent at least two hours of their lives in a deep conversation as to who was better in “Gypsy,” Patti or Bernadette. It takes them a long time to start laughing at a show (hence, the prove-it-to-me attitude) but once they realize that what they’re watching is not crap, they generally warm up and have a good time. As a side note, I’ve dated many of these people and they happen to be terrible in bed.

3. THE WHAT DID HE SAY, HARRY? SENIORS: These are the senior citizens who make up a typical matinee audience. And let me say, THANK GOD FOR THE MATINEE SENIORS, because without them, shows wouldn’t make enough money to run. They are dedicated theatregoers who love theatre, and more than once during a performance one of them will lean into another and loudly ask, “What did he say, Harry?” Harry will then, in turn, repeat the missed line even louder, making the actors wonder if there’s an echo in the theatre that’s throwing back their lines thirty seconds after they’ve said them. They tend to be very quiet audiences but VERY appreciative audiences and I absolutely love them. They rarely give standing ovations because most of them can no longer stand.

4. THE I’M-REALLY-ENJOYING-THIS-BUT-I’M-NOT-GOING-TO-LAUGH-SO-I-CAN-DRIVE-THE-AUTHOR-CRAZY CROWD: Okay, although I love ALL audience members, just as I love ALL critics, this group is not my favorite. They sit and watch and oftentimes they jump to their feet and applaud as soon as the show is over, but they barely react during the show — just some limp laughing here and there. Then when they leave they say things like, “That was the funniest show I’ve ever seen.” While I am glad that they’re happy, I have died a little bit inside.

Okay, Toxaholic, I gotta run to the theatre now! While I’m gone, please memorize the above list so I don’t have to go over it again when I get back. Okay, bye.

Okay, I’m back! Five hours in earth time has passed and I’ve just returned from our first critic’s performance.

“How’d it go?” you wonder, as you lean into your laptop, your breathing now heavy, your anticipation now overflowing.

It went superbly, I am happy to report! Nick, Nancy, Sarah, Matt and Demond were as funny as ever. and the band rocked the house. As for the audience, they were — drumroll, please — Hyeanas! (See, I no longer have to explain what that means to you because you are now theatre lingo savvy. Aren’t you something!!) One of the actors said to me that the cast felt like they were surfing tonight — they were just riding the waves of laughter. Thank you, happy Hyeana audience!

Oh yeah, also in attendance in the audience today was my uber-agent, Scott Yoselow. Now Scott is remarkably sane for an agent and, more importantly, he also has one of best and heartiest laughs in town (the other best laugh in town belongs to Memphis producer Randy Adams.) If ever David and I secretly recorded a presentation of one of our shows (which we would never do because it’s strictly against Actor’s Equity rules and if you ever break their rules they, like, come and take your pets and children.) But we can always hear Scott’s and Randy laughing louder than anyone else on the presentation recordings, if such recordings existed, which they don’t, so we can’t hear them. Anyway, my point only is that they laugh really loud and I could hear Scott laughing super loud tonight. So back off, Equity!

It’s after midnight now, so only four days till Opening Night —

Loving you though never feeling I have to say I’m sorry,
Joe

PREVIEW WEEK 3: AUDIENCE LATE, AUTHOR FAINT

So at last night’s performance (Thursday) started ten minutes late.

“But Joe,” you anxiously ask, “why would the show start a full ten minutes late? Especially on a night in which the audience was filled with wonderful, wonderful critics? Weren’t the actors ready? Wasn’t the band ready? Wasn’t the backstage crew ready? Why, Joe, why?”

Good questions, generic Toxaholic! And yes, the actors, band and backstage crew were all ready at 8:00 sharp, as always. And yes, I love all critics and think they’re wonderful though they shouldn’t feel the need to return the favor and write nice things about me though that would make them super people if they did. No, none of the aforementioned were at fault.

“Then who was?!” you ask, now more anxious and suspense-ridden than ever.

Well, it seems that last night, a large group had purchased tickets for the show, and they were seated across the front row. Thank you, large groups, I love you! But, last night at 8PM, this large group was nowhere to be found. Nor were they anywhere to be found at 8:03. So the house management decided to wait for them for a few more minutes, so when they took their seats they wouldn’t disturb the performance since they were seated in the entire first row. Let me repeat that — they were seated in the entire first row.

Well, at about 8:09, we all assumed that they weren’t going to come so we just started the show. All right, Toxicaholics, guess who walked in at 8:10? Guess. C’mon, guess!

Aha! You got it! The entire first row.

Now we have a strict policy at Toxic — latecomers will not be seated until after the opening number; that way the latecomers don’t disturb the ticketbuyers who actually showed up on time. So latecomers stand in the back until the opening number’s applause and scenic transition.

So the opening number finished (to thunderous applause! Yay!) and the New World Stages ushers quickly and deftly guided THE ENTIRE FRONT ROW to their seats. (You rock, New World Stages ushers!) And that would’ve all been fine but then as the next scene started, many of those in the front row decided that they wanted to switch seats with others in the front row, which was A LITTLE DISTRACTING to the saintly Sara Chase and Demond Green who happened to be on stage WORKING while all this was going on. It also happened to be A LITTLE DISTRACTING to the audience members who came on time and were seated behind the front row, which happened to be EVERYONE ELSE IN THE ENTIRE THEATRE.

As for your author, I was in the back row hyperventilating weeping praying hyperventilating and weeping and praying. Amazingly, the actors carried on brilliantly although I’m sure they were hearing, “No, no, let me sit next to Bobby, you sit here next to Rachel … did I step on your foot, Samantha, sorry, sorry…okay, let’s watch the show … is she supposed to blind or something?”

Despite all this delightfulness, the rest of the show went terrifically with another Hyeana audience (for this of you who just thought — “Hyeana audience? WTF?” — please check my invaluable Audience Analysis blog from a couple of days ago.) Also, the entire front row turned out to be a very fun group, even though they will never know what happened in the opening number (unless they buy tix to see the show again and show up on time. Do that! Do that!)
Also, one of the front row latecomers was a woman who guffawed non-stop for the entire show (except of course, during the opening number.) And we thoroughly encourage people to guffaw non-stop for the entire show, since it’s appropriate for The Toxic Avenger in a way that it wouldn’t be appropriate for, say, Death of a Salesman.

But my fav moment from last night had to be after Sarah told Toxie — ALERT DE SPOILER! ALERT DE SPOILER” — “Maybe we should just be friends…” and a large part of the audience went “Awwwwww …” followed by the other half of the audience laughing at the other half of the audience who had the involuntary group response. So cool.

Today, my buddies George and Scott flew in from Chicago to attend the show this weekend (I already told them that Keiko flew in from Japan a couple of weeks ago, so they don’t win the coveted Longest-Distance-Flown-In-To-See-The-Show award. Keiko’s got’em easily beat by about 11 hours. You go, Keiko!) Still, it’s nice to have friends in town to o help walk the dog share the show with.

Hoping that the front row shows up on time tonight,
Joe

FINAL PREVIEW DAY – BEST AUDIENCE QUESTION EVER!!

Yes, Toxaholics, today we have our last two previews (yay!) — a Sunday matinee full of rockin’ seniors and then a 7 PM show full of folks who don’t want the weekend to end.

But here’s a story that I absolutely must share with you. After yesterday’s matinee, I heard the best question EVER asked to me by an audience member. I know, I know what you’re thinking, “Joe, you’re overhyping again! Is it really the best question EVER?” Well listen up, Toxaholics —

Immediately following the matinee, I was standing in the back of the theatre and this absolutely lovely woman came up to me (I doubt she knew who I was; I probably just looked like I was with the show) — and she immediately started to gush — “Wasn’t that fantastic? The choreography! The songs! And the actors were amazing! I have just one question, though — ”

“What is it?”, I said, basking in the comfy warmth of her praise.

“Why didn’t the two dancing girls come out at the end during the curtain call?”

Now, for those of you who haven’t seen the show, the ‘two dancing girls’ are actually Demond Green and Matthew Saldivar, who also play about ten other roles in the show, which I explained to this lovely woman.

“Wow,” she said, “they were good.”

Of course, I immediately ran backstage to relay this to Demond and Matthew, who seemed both happy and a bit disturbed. But I loved it. And I loved her.

Now this question got me thinking, “Hm, I wonder if there are other questions I should be answering for inquisitive theatregoers?” Of course, I get sent tons of questions everyday, but most are unfortunately written in the dead language of Greenlandic Norse, which I don’t speak (except for the common phrase, “Hangu Smittenask Du,” which, of course, means “What up, bitches?”)

Anyway, I decided to ask my two freeloaders good friends from Chicago who are staying with me, George and Scott, to provide me with five Toxic Avenger questions that they would like to know and I could share with all you Toxaholics.

So what are their five questions? Well, they could actually only think of two (note to self: get smarter friends,) so I had to come up with the other questions myself. Jeez.

Q: Did you see the original film before you were asked to write the musical?
A: Good question, Scott and George! Yes, but many, many years ago when I was a much younger lad. But I remembered the premise and the tone of the film, and I immediately said I was interested. And when David Bryan and I met with the mad genius behind the flick, Lloyd Kaufman, he said that we should take his baby and run with it, which we did. He also gave us invaluable advice which was — “always remember it’s a comedy first.” Oddly, he then gave us herpes.

Q: Since the Black Dude and the White Dude play several characters (including dancing girls!) did you have to chart out which characters could be on stage at any given time?
A: Another good question, Scott and George! Yep, I definitely was very aware of who could be on stage and when. And if you notice — BIG SPOILER ALERT AHEAD! DON’T READ IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE SHOW OR IF YOU HAVE SEEN THE SHOW BUT HAVE FORGOTTEN HOW IT ENDS SO YOU PLAN TO SEE IT AGAIN TO REMIND YOURSELF HOW IT ENDS! In the final scene, when Sarah fires the first shot at the Mayor, it misses her and hits The Guy With The Pitchfork (played sparkingly by Demond Green.) Now, the main reason the bullet hits The Guy With The Pitchfork (which actually turns out to be pretty damn funny) is so Demond can stagger off-stage and then reenter a couple of minutes later as Professor Ken and save the day.

Q: I have no idea what the hell your show is about. Using other shows as reference points, could you describe “The Toxic Avenger” as though you were pitching it a simple-minded television executive?
A: Sure. “The Toxic Avenger” is like if “Little Shop of Horrors” met “Bat Boy” and then they fell in love and gave birth to a baby comprised of “Urinetown” and “The Producers” and that freak baby grew up and started dating “Rocky Horror Picture Show” but then they had a bad break-up and the show wanted to date “West Side Story” but “West Side Story” stood them up so the show just decided to stand on their own and it pimp-slapped “My Fair Lady” and became — ta da! — “The Toxic Avenger.” Does that help?
A: Yes, very much! That clears up a lot. Thank you.

Q: How have the critics been reacting to the show thus far?
A: Good question! And though a lot of critics have been to see the show already (one more handsome than the next!) we won’t know until the reviews come out late Monday night/Tuesday morning. However, last night one rather rotound critic came in late (!) to see the show (and the way you know if someone is a critic is if they are holding a green folder that our press reps gave to them.) So this esteemed gentleman of the press walked in late and he was seated in the one empty seat in the house (which happened to be right next to David Bryan) and, according to David’s eyewitness report, the rotound gentleman proceeeded to fall asleep for the entire show. And this ain’t exactly a quiet show. But I’m sure he loved it anyway!

Q: Is The Toxic Avenger the best musical ever written? And c’mon, be honest. No lying.
A: Yes, it is.

Well, I hope that was informative, Toxaholics! And thanks, George and Scott for giving me five four three two questions!

Till tomorrow —

With hot toxic love,
Joe

OPENING NIGHT! THANKS TOXAHOLICS!

Well Toxaholics, in about 1/2 an hour I will be leaving to attend the Opening Night Performance of The Toxic Avenger. And I have to say, as I file my final blog here, I’m feeling a bit verklempt, as Shinequa and Diane sing in “My Big French Boyfriend.” I’d never written a blog before this one, and I worked hard to make sure that it never took itself too seriously while still providing some behind-the-scenes info. So your response has been overwhelming to me.

I’ve been absolutely thrilled and surprised by the number of readers who have taken the time to read my musings, and to all you who took the time to tell me how much you enjoyed it, you have my hot toxic gratitude.

As for what an author does during the day of his opening? Well, this author sleeps as late possible (and being the proud owner of a dog who’ll happily sleep till noon, I accomplished my mission.) I woke up comfortably at 10, dragged the dog for a rainy walk, then saw my Chicago freeloaders friends George and Scott off for the day — like true tourists, they were going to go to the Museum of Modern Art, though “probably just the gift shop.”

Then I sat down at my computer to work on another project. That’s correct, Toxaholics — I always find it helpful to write something else on an opening night, in order to both look ahead to the future and calm my opening night jitters. But while working, I got two calls in quick succession — first, director John Rando called to say that he, too, had his usual opening night jitters but that the Toxic experience has been a joy from Day One (same back at ya, John.) Then David Bryan called me to tell that he wasn’t nervous at all (it’s good to be a rock star) and the opening night gifts we’ve bought for the cast and crew might not be engraved yet, so they might not actually be “Opening Night” gifts, they might be “1st Performance After Opening Night” gifts. Regardless, our cast (Nick, Sara, Nancy, Demond, Matt) and band and crew have been nothing short of remarkable — both on stage and off — and for all those who have seen and loved the show, it’s mainly because of them.

Anyway, Toxaholics, time for one of the most important of all opening night rituals — figuring out what the hell to wear. This is when it’s a good thing to have two gay guys staying with you (and though gay myself, I have the fashion sense of a non-metrosexual straight dude.)

It’s been an absolute blast creating The Toxic Avenger and writing this blog about it, and hopefully Toxie will continue to keep theatregoers laughin’ and rockin’ and cheerin’ for a long, long time.

Lotsa love (and without irony this time,)
Joe