Reefer Madness is a satirical take on the 1938 film of the same name, exploring an exaggerated world where even a chance encounter with marijuana leads irrevocably to apathy, immorality and violence. The production is actually a play within a play, conceived of and lead by a stern lecturer/ amateur director, for the purpose of warning the youth of America about the dangers of marijuana.
Reefer Madness Tries to Balance the Ridiculous and the Real
HE SAID: Although I have an affinity for campy quasi B science fiction musicals, like Bat Boy the Musical, this show is unlike anything I have ever seen. With the layers of a campy show inside of a campy parody, things got a tad over the top at times when I felt that certain performers were pointing out how ridiculous the material is instead of playing the scene earnestly which lets the inherent comedy come out naturally. When something is that over-the-top to begin with, adding anything more to the material sends the whole thing overboard.
SHE SAID: My first impression wasn’t that the show went overboard — I found the show entertaining on the whole. I laughed throughout and the catchy music is still stuck in my head (four days later), in a pleasant way. However, as HE mentions above, it’s very tricky to get the right amount of realism in a genre this layered and absurd. Several of the leading performers were entertaining and silly while portraying larger-than-life characters, but as the show progressed I wished that they had a few more human aspects to allow for growth and change.
Colin Roybal’s Choreography “Hits” Home in a Small Space
HE SAID: For me, the highlight of the show was hands down the execution and the actual choreography by Colin Roybal. The various moves were fun and filled the space nicely, yet the small stage at the Bug Theater never felt cramped to me. The chorus definitely handled the moves well with all but maybe a few nailing each step with fantastic flare. One chorus member who stood out to me was Devin Bustamante. He was performing full out every number, even when he was on stage in his underwear and bra during “Listen to Jesus, Jimmy” (which was a hysterical number overall).
SHE SAID: I agree 100% about the choreography. All of the group numbers were chock full of dance moves very well suited to the music, and the ensemble really raised the energy level every time they came on stage. The large numbers were so strong that I was secretly hoping for a mega-mix at the end. I have a She Said shout out for Melissa Morris, who always caught my eye (but not in a distracting way) during group numbers, as she was always spunky, engaged and committed.
Strong Vocals Hard to Hear
HE SAID: There were several moments of very well-controlled chaos, including the chase scene at the start of the second act which was very funny. But there were a few moments where that control was not so evident, as in the number “Murder” which ended up becoming a large cacophony of indistinguishable vocal parts. When they were on, it was near perfect, but when the control slipped it wasn’t pleasant.
SHE SAID: One of my favorite performances of the evening was Brandon Bill as the Lecturer. I thought he found a lot of the comedy in the piece, because I really believed that his message was of utmost importance to him. I also enjoyed his singing voice. The other leads seemed to have decent vocal chops as well, but unfortunately it was difficult to hear their unprojected voices over the band during several of the songs.
THEY SAID: Reefer Madness belongs to a small number of musicals in the delightful horror comedy genre. Equinox gives the absurd content matter as much energy and commitment as one could ask for! We wished that this production had been a bit more grounded, but if you’re okay with something aimed a bit, um, higher, we think you’ll have a great time!
Reefer Madness plays Friday and Saturday nights through September 18 at The Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St. Click the banner above for tickets and more information.