Reefer Madness is a musical that spoofs the 1930s cult movie of the same name. It is an insane experience of intense farce that is utterly hilarious.
The movie is a highly exaggerated morality tale on the dangers of marijuana – naming the drug as public enemy number one in the US, supposedly threatening the innocence of youth. The film was rediscovered in the 1970s, and became a cult classic example of a “so bad it’s good” movie. It was adapted into a musical satire by Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney in the 1990s.
The musical opens with the Lecturer telling the audience all about the drug menace that is terrorising America. He then launches into the tale of Jimmy Harper and Mary Lane, a high school couple, who descend into rape, murder and madness after succumbing to the effects of reefer.
The music varies in style from swing and jazz to show-stopping numbers; they come so thick and fast that you barely get to catch your breath, and they are delivered with sheer exuberance by the young cast.
The cast of twelve takes on multiple roles, supported by five live musicians. With costuming requirements including a group of teenagers, a choir of angels and a horde of zombies, the speed of each transformation is particularly commendable.
The company wisely eschewed using a lot of props or creating a real set; it would have been nigh impossible to do this efficiently, due to the number of locations and the fact that there are over a dozen musical numbers. However, lighting could have been used more effectively to help set the mood.
Do be warned that this particular musical is very upfront and in your face – sometimes cast members would press up to the audience in the front row in a manner which would have made me extremely uncomfortable had I been in one of the unfortunate seats. But overall, Reefer Madness is a madcap tour de farce performed with gusto and glee. Any fan of the 2005 movie adaptation, or of musicals in general, will love this stage production.