Reefer Madness Tokes Up at Dramashop

Categories:  Events    Theater    Music
Wednesday, May 24th, 2017 at 11:30 AM
Reefer Madness Tokes Up at Dramashop by Matt Swanseger

Reefer Madness Tokes Up at Dramashop

Would you kill for a joint? Perhaps it’s time to examine your conscience with the Dramashop production of Reefer Madness, a musical comedy based on the 1936 anti-marijuana propaganda film of the same name. Inspired by the zany irreverence of musician Frank Zappa, co-writers Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney effectively hyperbolized source material already notorious for its hyperbole – quite the feat if you’re familiar with the original.

Reefer Madness the musical debuted in 1998 to rave reviews and took home six Backstage West Garland Awards (including “Best Production”) and seven Drama Critics Circle Awards (including another “Best Production” honor) in 1999. Since intoxicating Los Angeles, Reefer Madness has swept the globe just like the deadly scourge that is its focal point. The script and the musical numbers make “no attempt to equivocate the soul-destroying effects” of the reefer, which leads to “uncontrollable laughter, dangerous hallucination, monstrous extravagances, emotional disturbances, and the loss of power to resist physical emotions, leading to acts of shocking violence – ending often in incurable insanity.”

That insanity is immediately apparent after protagonist Jimmy Harper takes his first toke at the seedy Reefer Den amongst the deplorable Denizens of the Night. The accompanying song “Jimmy Takes a Hit” brings to life a hypersexual vision perpetrated by the marijuana, including fire eaters, belly dancers, and the Lecturer (the narrator who is relaying this cautionary tale to a room of concerned parents at Jimmy’s high school) as a fearsome Goat-man. Elsewhere, Jesus himself makes an appearance with a backing of angelic Vegas showgirls in the Tom Jones-flavored “Listen to Jesus, Jimmy.”

Your soul will rest easy knowing you don’t have to make the same mistake. Audiences will have six chances to remain morally upright (while possibly collapsing from laughter), with a Friday and Saturday showing each weekend through June 17. – Matt Swanseger

8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays June 2 through 17 // 1001 State St. // dramashop.org // $12

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