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From ‘Toxic Avenger’ to ‘A Bronx Tale,’ I will miss the wit and talent of Broadway’s Nick Cordero

New York Times

Nick Cordero in ‘The Toxic Avenger: The Musical.’

I didn’t plan it this way, but I turned out to be a Nick Cordero groupie.

I saw him in New York in four different Broadway and Off-Broadway shows: “The Toxic Avenger: The Musical,” “Bullets Over Broadway” (for which he received 2014 Tony Award nomination), “Waitress” and “A Bronx Tale.” (The only two I missed him in, according to the Internet Broadway Database, is Broadway’s “Rock of Ages” and the off-Broadway show “Brooklynite.”

The Broadway actor, who died Sunday night after a more than three-month battle with COVID-19, had become an emblem of the devastating impact of the disease on the New York theater community. At 41, his death is also a sobering reminder for all the 20-to-40 somethings out there who think that the Coronavirus is only dangerous for older people.

In the end, according to the New York Times writeup on Cordero’s death, it appears that the disease had left his system, but the devastating impact on his body was too much for him to overcome. I’m glad to know that he was able to wake up from his medically induced coma for a few days, if only to acknowledge his family.

I was drawn to Cordero in all four shows I saw him in: He was funny as the lumbering gangster Cheech in “Bullets Over Broadway,” gruff and moving as Earl in “Waitress,” and memorably snappy as Sonny in “A Bronx Tale,” but my favorite performance of his was the title character in “The Toxic Avenger.” In a sad, polluted town in New Jersey, poor Melvin Ferd the Third is transformed from a mild-mannered environmental scientist into a hideous green beast after being thrown into a barrel of toxic waste.

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Cordero is hilarious on the original cast album, which can still make me laugh after all these years. My favorite song is “Sweet Toxic Love,” which he sings to the town’s beautiful, blind librarian:

Look deep inside
I have nothing to hide
You see the real me
I’m yours honestly
You make me combust
With chemical lust
I’m just so scared of
My hot toxic
Hot toxic love

Give the recording a listen. If you’re a fan of quirky, raucous little musicals, you’ll find a lot to like.

In the end, I’m thankful I got to see Nick Cordero in four shows. It’s sad that I won’t have the opportunity to see him in more.


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Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

donaldfresnoarts@gmail.com

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