INTERN’S VIEW: “Reefer Madness: The Musical” Made Me LOL
by Philip Benais
Reefer Madness: The Musical. Stage Directed by Steve Cooper. Music Directed by Ann Sager. Production Managed by Eric Dickman and Maggie Larrick. Starring Brad Walker, Russ Kay, Sophia Federighi, Johnny Patchamatla, Michelle Flowers, Nathaniel Jones, Amanda Falcone, Katie Beudart, Sara Sorden, Anna Richardson, Anthony Ascione and Jason Pead.
I want you to do me a favor; think back to the last comedic musical you saw. Did that production make you laugh out loud at nearly every joke and wonderful musical number? Did the actors entirely immerse you in the story they were a part of? Did every set up and situation work because of the strength that the writing, music and performances had? I can safely answer yes to every one of those questions; Reefer Madness: The Musical at Burien Little Theatre was brilliantly executed, a true showcase of comedic and musical talent from a group of dedicated performers. I don’t remember the last time I laughed so hard or so long at a comedic production as I did with this one. If you haven’t seen it yet, you absolutely must; there’s no excuse for not taking the time to see this campy hit.
For those of you who don’t know Reefer Madness: The Musical is an adaptation of the original 1938 film Reefer Madness, which actually was originally named Tell Your Children. The film was meant to be a morality tale about the dangers of using marijuana, but thanks to schlock pedler Dwain Esper and some absurd caricatures the film didn’t get off the ground until 1970, when it became a cult film for the very people it was trying to demonize. Needless to say the film is now public domain and the musical version premiered Off Broadway September 15, 2001. I haven’t seen the Showtime film version of this musical released in 2005, but something tells me this one is still superior. With a combination of pitch perfect timing and wonderful direction and performances, Reefer Madness: The Musical is a one of a kind show that you’ll remember for a long time. It’s well worth any expenses or traveling you may need to do to see this play.
The story begins with a man simply known as ‘the lecturer,’ (Russ Kay) who begins the play by warning the audience of the ‘green assassin’ poisoning the youth of America known as marijuana, in a tone that is both eerily reminiscent and perfectly satirizing the tone of the lecturer from the actual film. We are then introduced to Jimmy Harper, (Brad Walker) a right as rain sixteen year old boy and his sweetheart Mary Lane (Sophia Federighi) who lovingly tell each other they’ll end up like Romeo And Juliet (without having read the end of course.) Jimmy wants to give Mary Lane his ring and be her dance partner at an upcoming event, but he feels like a schmuck because he doesn’t know how to dance. Enter Jack Stone, (Johnny Patchamalta) a sadistic pot peddler who prowls the neighborhood after school hang out for kids to turn into reefer addicts. He lures Jimmy back to his apartment under the guise of ‘swing dance lessons’ and it’s here we find Mae, (Michelle Flowers) Jack’s addict girlfriend and Ralph, (Nathaniel Jones) a college dropout who fell prey to cannabis and has become a giggling madman. Jimmy is forced to smoke a joint and from that point on, things descend into madness; sweet, blissful madness that only an expertly handled parody can pull off.
It’s worth noting that every performance in this play is wonderful, from Brad Walker’s confused Jimmy Harper to Sophia Federighi’s loyal Mary Lane to Johnny Patchamalta’s Jack AND Jesus (No easy feat I may add.) It all amounts to that wonderful madness I was mentioning earlier; every actor and actress feed off of each other and even the audience. (Jesus at one point had to deal with someone in the audience who didn’t want an article of food he was handing out and so Patchamalta brilliantly ad-libbed ‘Jewish? Me too.’) I must warn you dear readers that this show IS very adult however, so for parents considering to see this show I would recommend hiring a sitter for the little ones. To give you a clue, there are several impromptu musical numbers with actors and actresses in skimpy clothing, some adult language and of course the bloody thing is about marijuana. Luckily for me, 16-years old is the minimum recommended age.
The musical numbers are indeed catchy and wonderful to listen to, brought to life by the charismatic performers that are obviously having a blast. In fact many times I was reminded of big name actors in the way that the actors portrayed their characters; especially with Nathaniel Jones, who was for all intents and purposes the resident Tim Curry. Everything works in this production, from the intentional camp to the larger than life actors and even down to the set transitions and costumes. It’s a breath of fresh air for sure and I would implore everyone reading this now to wisely spend your money to see a show and indeed performers you won’t soon forget.
Tickets are $19 for Adults, $16 for Students/Seniors, and you can buy them online here.
Here are the upcoming show dates and times:
- October 23 at 8:00 p.m. – Friday (Late Night “Zombie”)
- October 24 at 8:00 p.m. – Saturday (Late Night “Zombie”)
- October 25 at 8:00 p.m. – Sunday
- October 29 at 8:00 p.m. – Friday (Late Night “Zombie”)
- October 30 at 8:00 p.m. – Saturday (Late Night “Zombie”)
- October 31 at 8:00 p.m. – Sunday
Here’s a video of a recent rehearsal of Reefer on YouTube:
And if you’ve never seen the film, here ya go:
More info at www.burienlittletheatre.org.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Philip Benais is our newest Intern, a 16-year old student at Big Picture High School in SeaTac.
Read more of his work here.]