Playing all month every friday and saturday night, The Paper Wing Theatre performs "Reefer Madness: the Musical" live on stage. I was there for opening night alongside the infamous "Remo D" (Shane Dallmann), my favorite horror host from the Manor of Mayhem where I was once a regular. He has a much more detailed review available here:
While I have seen the original “scare” film upon which this musical is based, it never really stood out as anything extra-ordinarily special when I watched it. I had scrounged through a guide to “Cult” movies and pretty much watched everything featured in that book, including Zardoz (which stands as one of the weirdest and worst movies I’ve ever seen) and this was one of the tamer films I found. Madness just seemed like a fairly hokey little number and I don’t even remember enough of the film to really draw too many parallels with the Musical effort I saw this past weekend. I was, however, able to draw parallels to the Rocky Horror Show but all of ideas were covered in the review written by my friend and audience neighbor, Shane Dallmann. So if you want to read a good review, I would recommend reading his thoughts and the written parallels between this show and Rocky. But, seeing as how you’re on MY blog right now, I thought I’d take a different tactic and just write some general thoughts on the performances and maybe even the eventual “Moral” of the story.
LJ Brewer is simply fantastic in the role of the Narrator. He plays the role with deep seriousness and bitter anger regarding the evil nature of the shows primary “demon”. There are hilarious moments in his narration, many of them made even more hilarious by the severity of his performance. I’ve seen Mr. Brewer absolutely kill in a variety of roles, but this has to be my favorite performance from him to date. That’s saying A LOT considering how brilliant he was as Frankenfurter and how chilling he was as Nathan/Repo. Brewer is a gifted guy and he seemed to just absolutely revel in the challenges of this particular role. His voice in the opening number is perfect and total rock star and the show just rolls along from there at full tilt. The Narrator slips into a number of guises throughout the show, from a Soda-Jerk to a clerk a the Train Station and other moments that have to be seen and should not be spoiled.
Erik James Morton and Jill Miller are also brilliantly naive in their roles as the shows primary protagonists, Jimmy and Mary Lane; Two 50’s era suburban teens about to come face to face with their own darker natures when they’re introduced to the evils of Marijuana use. Morton is just so gosh golly gee in the beginning that his steep and rapid decline becomes even more hilarious when his raving madness is confronted by his parents. He's addled with a desperate hunger for the demon weed. Jill is a very gifted physical comedienne whose responsibilities also included choreography on the various dance routines throughout the show. Her performance as Mary Lane was very wholesome with a touch of slapstick regarding the physicality, her facial expressions selling so much of the comedy in all of her scenes. She has a magnetic charisma that stands out on stage.
The flop house den of iniquity is populated by four characters who each play their own part in the tragic events depicted within this cautionary tale. The slick con-man dealer (Daniel Matthey) lures the innocent teens to foul debauchery with sadistic glee, controlling his little gang with a steady supply of “The Stuff”. His moll(Erin Davison) is the owner of the house and the story’s primary moral compass as an unwilling slave torn by guilt for her part in the tale. Ralph (Nicholas Kelly) is a feral creature driven to a golem-like existence, creeping through each scene with maddened hunger and glee. Rounding out the foursome is a blonde bombshell seductress (Taylor Noel Young) played to the hilt with some of the best one-liners in the show.
Okay… the moral of the story isn’t the obvious heavy handed attempt to keep kids off “the Stuff” that the original film was. It isn’t a tongue-in-cheek celebration of it, either. While there were similarities to Rocky, I was actually more struck with the similarity to an episode of South Park where Stan’s parents hire an actor to play a future “Drug-addled” version of him in a complicated scheme to get him to avoid using drugs. There’s a great scene at the end where they actually discuss the real concerns regarding drug use and that parents shouldn’t be afraid to have these real discussions with their children. The heavy handed tactics of films like “Reefer Madness” and the anti-drug commercials drowning the airwaves don’t really accomplish much beyond spreading fear and unease regarding the very topic itself. It causes more harm than good. There are some great lines in the lyrics, where the narrator and the “Government” sorts actually try to scare the parents away from their responsibilities and just leave everything in “Their” hands… to mold and shape the children in the image “They” think is appropriate. But I’m the over-intellectualizing ass-hole that saw far greater significance regarding a reference to Cerberus than was probably far less than intended. So don't read too much into my views on the story and the morality, because this show is just flat out hilarity from start to finish.
Reefer Madness: The Musical is a great experience for a night out on the town. It is great comedic fun and the performances are brilliant. There were several moments where I thought I was going to pass out from laughing so hard, including a number of “Chase” sequences that started with a “high speed police pursuit” that simply HAS to be seen. Seriously, get yourself down to Monterey and check out the show at your next convenience.