Fun, funny, and outrageous, Mercury Players' Reefer Madness: The Musical is sure to put a perma-grin on your face.
Even if you haven't seen the 1936 propaganda film that inspired the show, you can guess that this musical is a bit different from standard Broadway fare. The movie, intended to warn parents of the menace of marijuana, is populated by characters who chain-smoke joints as if they were Marlboros and maddened pianists who lure sweet-faced kids into lives of debauchery. It was rediscovered in the 1970s by mellow (very mellow) midnight-movie audiences and remains a cult classic for modern-day potheads.
Director Pete Rydberg admits that the film had only a slightly hazy influence on this production. "Like many people who have watched Reefer Madness, I have some spotty memories of the experience. I know it sounds shocking that I would not have watched the movie recently with a clear head as part of my research for this production, but the musical is a far cry from the original."
The story's the same - the boy next door goes bad after a few puffs of demon weed - but Reefer Madness: The Musical takes the fun to a whole new high. This Reefer Madness is filled with campy, satirical song-and-dance numbers bracketing short scenes that re-create the film's melodrama. And, yes, movie buffs, there will be some maniacal piano playing.
For buffs of another nature, staffers from NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) will be present in the theater lobby with literature. (Rydberg notes that the brownies will be provided by Mercury Players.)
The troupe involved NORML to get audiences thinking. "NORML is present as a representative counterpoint to official sanctions against marijuana use, which will hopefully connect informed debate about decriminalization with our musical satire," says Rydberg.
Does Reefer Madness take a pro-marijuana stand? "Absolutely not," says Rydberg. Instead, this show asks: Where do Americans get their information, and who controls that information?
Reefer Madness is bound to give theatergoers a buzz. "I think people will be grinning from ear to ear - if they can stop singing their favorite stanzas," Rydberg says. "They will see an intelligent musical satire that not only entertains but raises important questions on hot-button topics."