Warner Theatre, Torringon: Now that medical marijuana has become more widely used, and now that Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational marijuana, some of the irony and camp of Reefer Madness, the musical, has lost its glow.
Based on a 1936 film that warned against the use of marijuana, it didn’t take long for college students to create a spoof on the movie’s melodramatic rendering. Over-exaggerating the effects of marijuana on teenagers, this cult classic shows most ironically how using cannabis leads to a life of sex, murder, and madness.
Written by Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney with Studney’s music, the lyrics are clever, although at times they were overpowered by the music in this production. The storyline follows two young teens who get into a lot of trouble because they try marijuana. Jimmy is high throughout most of the show. He’s involved in a hit-and-run car accident and tries to leave town. His girlfriend Mary also tries weed and accidentally gets shot. Jimmy gets blamed for her murder. All of these problems arise because the teens tried marijuana. This is all tongue-in-cheek.
There were some rough spots in the show with the lighting, which occasionally blocked out some of the wording on the posters that were held up by “Placard Girl” Melissa Greaves; her signs provided the audience with such informative tidbits as “marijuana makes you giggle.” What worked well were the cardboard props of everything, from a cat and dog to two mugs of hot chocolate, a car, plane, and boat.
Surprisingly, the Warner production is not very funny. There are a few laughs here and there, but overall, the show fell flat during the Sunday matinee of opening weekend. Some of the actors tried to get the audience to be more responsive, which didn’t work. Perhaps the days of fearing marijuana are over and the spoof is just no longer funny.
What is most surprising about this production is that most of the actors on stage are really pretty good. Rodney K has a devilish laugh that serves him well throughout the show. His ability to switch gears from a diabolical pothead to a womanizing charmer is quite a coup.
Cole Sutton plays good boy/bad boy Jimmy and Katie Brunetto plays Jimmy’s girlfriend Mary. Meric Martin’s performance stands tall as the drug-dealing pimp and Jesus, while Joshua Newey exaggerates the satanic Goat Man, Mr. Poppy and the Lecturer. Both Lana Peck as a hooker and Holly Martin as a woman with a conscience hold their own. An enthusiastic ensemble sings and dances and really struts its stuff in the second act. Still, the sexy and skimpy costumes and the laugh factor just didn’t rock the joint.
Keith Paul directs the production with some awkward entrances and exits and TJ Thompson as musical director lets the audience knows the band is back there even though we don’t see them. Sheila Waters Fucci is the choreographer and most of the dancers perform well. Sharon A. Wilcox designed the lackluster set.
This is definitely not a play for children. While none of the actors are nude, some of the costumes reveal more than they conceal. Sex and drugs are at the heart of this musical, which plays through Sept. 21.
It contains adult humor, religious parody, and drug use, as well as suggested violence and sexual explicitness. It therefore may be inappropriate for younger performers and audiences.
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: [email protected]