KOOL KAT OF THE WEEK: Tromaville in L5P: Nick Arapoglou Radiates as the First Superhero from New Jersey in Horizon Theatre’s THE TOXIC AVENGER

Posted on: Feb 17th, 2016 By:
Kool Kat of the Week Nick Arapaglou as Toxie in Horizon Theatre's production of THE TOXIC AVENGER. Photo credit: Greg Mooney.

Kool Kat of the Week Nick Arapaglou as Toxie in Horizon Theatre’s production of THE TOXIC AVENGER. Photo credit: Greg Mooney.

By Geoff Slade
Contributing Writer

Horizon Theatre’s production of THE TOXIC AVENGER (Wed-Sun., through March 13) is a musical comedy based on the cult 1984 Troma film.  If that means anything at all to you, it is likely the best news you’ve heard all day. The plot will be familiar to fans, and I don’t want to spoil anything for the rest of you. All you need to know about the show itself, depending on how seriously you want to take it, is to expect social commentary on pollution, corrupt politicians and a deft satire of the superhero genre. And a seven-foot tall mutant with superhuman strength and a heart of gold. The original stage production opened in New Jersey in 2008, followed by a successful Off-Broadway run in 2009.

Local actor Nick Arapoglou plays the lead. Nick, originally from Huntington, NY, went to high school in Atlanta and moved back here after college. He has been acting professionally for about a decade, notably as Princeton (for which he learned puppetry!) in all three local productions (at three different venues) of AVENUE Q, and he won 2011’s Suzi Bass Award for Lead Actor in a Musical. Other roles during the past few years include Asher Lev in MY NAME IS ASHER LEV (Theatrical Outfit), Romeo in ROMEO AND JULIET (Shakespeare Tavern) and Bobby Strong in URINETOWN (Fabrefaction Theatre). “Of course, I also enjoyed THE GIFTS OF THE MAGI at Theatrical Outfit, because my wife played opposite me in that show for three years straight!” Nick said.

In addition to a diverse stage career, the actor has done lots of on-camera work . Look for him later this year in the films TABLE 19 (with Anna Kendrick, Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson), THE ACCOUNTANT (Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick), THE BOSS (Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Bell), and CONFIRMATION (Kerry Washington).

Needless to say, those are some fantastic credits, but yeah, we admit we made Nick Kool Kat of the Week now because we think he’s in the role of a lifetime. And we’re absolutely troma-tized that he took time from his trashy schedule to talk Toxie with ATLRetro.

Photo credit: Greg Mooney.

Not funny! Photo credit: Greg Mooney.

First of all, what’s it like to portray a pop culture icon? (and make no mistake…)

Ha! I think when you are playing a role where there are those kinds of expectations, you have to make sure there are moments when you give a tip of the hat to the fans. We certainly have those moments placed within the show. But putting on a big green suit and kicking ass with a mop is about as awesome as you think it is!

Were you a fan of the films?

I’m going to be honest—I still haven’t seen them. I know that might make some people gasp! But there’s a reason why I didn’t once I accepted the role. There are very few new shows and musicals that hit the stage in Atlanta. They’ve usually been done in New York first. So it’s always important to me to try to bring my own take on the role and do a recycled impression of an impression of someone else’s take. That’s a huge trap in musicals especially. People listen to the CD so much and that colors their performance. So, the point is, I didn’t want to see the film and then have my performance be shaped by someone else’s. I did watch the trailer though and laughed hysterically—so you can bet once we close this thing that’s the first thing in my queue.

Had you seen or were you aware of any of the previous productions before this one came along?

Yes, we were aware especially of the award-winning Off-Broadway performance in NYC. I listened to the score a few times to get a sense of the music, but then stopped before it got in my head too much!

How did you end up cast in the lead?

Well, this is the same creative team that was behind AVENUE Q. Our excellent director Heidi McKerley (who won the Suzi Award for Best Director for AVE Q) and I have now done 11 or 12 productions together. She was one of the first people to cast me years ago and we have developed quite the resume of kickass musicals at this point. Also the music director Renee Clark (Suzi Award for Best Music Direction for AVE Q) and I have also worked together for years and years. She is an unbelievable talent, and every show she works on is better because of her presence. So I’m sure the working relationships I have with both those two fierce ladies led to their trust in casting me as the lead in this show.

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Don’t drop him! Photo credit: Greg Mooney.

You’re two weeks into a scheduled six-week run. How have audiences responded so far? Gotten any feedback from Troma fans yet?

I know I’m supposed to say this, but audiences love the show. No matter if the theater is sold out completely or we have maybe a smaller crowd on a Wednesday, they jump to their feet by the end of the show. I mean jump to their feet. It’s happened every night. We are really proud of what we are doing. The cast is a firestorm of musical theatre rock talent. Don’t believe me? Come watch, you’ll see!

We have definitely gotten some Troma fan feedback. It’s been awesome. They are always satisfied and super happy to take pictures at the end of the night with Big Green Freak.

How would you describe the show to (warn?) fans of musical theater that don’t recognize the title?

Nothing to warn about really. Because it’s a musical, obviously the gore factor has to be toned way down for audiences. But that doesn’t take away from the story and the fun at all, believe me. I think this show is rated PG-13, but a hilarious PG-13. It’s a train. It’s campy, and ridiculous, and hilarious. Everyone leaves smiling. If you don’t leave that way, you were trying not to like it, and in that case, I feel bad for you.

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Toxie comes alive! Photo credit: Greg Mooney.

The movies feature absurd, disgusting, hilarious violence. Any chance you rip some punk’s arm off onstage?

Some punk’s arm? How about multiple punks’ arms.

The musical was written by New Jersey natives Joe DiPietro and David Bryan. Their last collaboration, MEMPHIS, won the 2010 Tony Award for Best Musical. Bryan wrote the music (and co-wrote the lyrics with DiPietro) during downtime from his day job, keyboardist for another ’80s Jersey juggernaut, Bon Jovi. So is it safe to say the score rocks?

The music is just fun. We have a kicking band. You’ll hear some sick guitar distortion solos and bass, hot keyboard play and insane drum solos.

And this cast can sing. Make no mistake—it rocks.

THE TOXIC AVENGER runs through March 13 at the Horizon Theatre. Showtimes are Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 3pm and 8:30pm, and Sunday at 5pm. Tickets start at $25. www.horizontheatre.com or 404-548-7450 for tickets and info.

The play contains adult language and content, and even though they’d love it, is not recommended for children.

All photos provided by Horizon Theatre and used with permission.

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Tis The Season To Be Naughty: Horizon Theatre Unwraps Another Saucy Season of David Sedaris’ THE SANTALAND DIARIES

Posted on: Dec 1st, 2015 By:
Santaland Diaries_Horizon Theatre5 - Crumpet Bear Rug

Crumpet (Harold M. Leaver) in Horizon Theatre’s production of THE SANTALAND DIARIES. Courtesy of Horizon Theatre Company.

SANTALAND DIARIES by David Sedaris; adapted by Joe Mantello. Starring Harold M. Leaver, Lala Cochran, Enoch King. Horizon Theatre, Nov. 20-Dec. 31, Tickets here.

By Claudia Dafrico
Contributing Writer

It goes without saying that Atlanta has no shortage of Christmas traditions, from ice skating at Centennial Park to taking a trip down to Callaway Gardens to see the lights. But for those looking for a little more “naughty” than “nice” in their festivities, look no further than Horizon Theatre’s annual production of David Sedaris’ THE SANTALAND DIARIES. Adapted from Sedaris’ hilarious essay detailing his brief stint as one of Santa’s many elves in Macy’s Santaland, The Santaland Diaries serves to be a perfect mix of Christmas cheer and the biting wit that Sedaris has since become famous for. 

While Sedaris is known for many of his full-length essay collections, such as ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY and DRESS YOUR FAMILY IN COURDORY AND DENIM, his 1992 essay on his adventures in Santaland is what put him on the map in the first place. Sedaris, at the time a contributor for NPR, read the piece on the radio program THIS AMERICAN LIFE, and the absurd hilarity of Sedaris’ prose along with is dry, unique intonation brought the piece widespread popularity. A dramatized version for the stage was soon produced, and Atlanta’s own Horizon Theatre jumped at the chance to bring a new Christmas experience to the city. The theatre has since put on The Santaland Diaries every holiday season for the past 17 years, and shows no signs of stopping soon. 

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Courtesy of Horizon Theatre Company.

One of the many reasons why The Santaland Diaries has maintained such popularity is Harold M. Leaver’s impeccable performance as Crumpet, Sedaris’ elfin alter ego. Leaver has been playing Crumpet throughout the entire run of the show so far, and it’s clear that he has enjoyed every second of it. His performance is an impeccable rendition of Sedaris’ own diction with Leaver’s own personal touch and style, which proves to be highly entertaining to witness. At one point, Crumpet selects a hapless audience member to join him in his antics, and even the shyest of volunteers is eventually won over by his wit and charisma. Leaver snarks and frolics in a manner which Sedaris would surely be proud. 

Along for the ride are Crumpet’s two “sidekicks,” played by Atlanta theatre vets Lala Cochran and Enoch King, who show no hesitation in being completely ridiculous and outrageous. Because the two play every character other than Crumpet himself, they are constantly running backstage for quick changes that are seemingly impossible given the time constraints, but Cochran and King pull it off without flaw. It’s a treat to watch the duo play whiny children one second and vulgar adults the next, and when alongside Leaver’s sassy yet sweet Crumpet, the laughs are near constant. 

Santaland Diaries_Horizon Theatre8 - Wise Guy

Courtesy of Horizon Theatre Company.

The ambiance of the theatre itself is not to be overlooked, as the whole place is decked out in cozy Christmas cheer that invites you to relax and enjoy the eggnog-fueled frivolity that is The Santaland Diaries. The stage is a mini Winter Wonderland, and the intimate nature of the performance space lends itself to frequent audience interaction and participation (be prepared to shout and cheer along with your new elf friends). With reasonable tickets prices and a great location, there’s really no reason you shouldn’t make your way over to the Horizon this Christmas and treat yourself and a guest to a night with Crumpet and friends. You’ll never look at Lenox Square’s Santa the same way again, I can guarantee you that.

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