Reefer Madness

Reefer Madness

Reefer Madness
Book, Music and Lyric by Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney
Directed by Missy Barnes
Musical Direction by Jamey Ray
Starring Bailey DeVoe, Taylor Wright and MiKayla Phillips
Annie Russell Theatre at Rollins College
Winter Park, FL

We all just assumed pot would be legal by 1980. Boy, were we wrong about that. The fear-mongering of J. Edgar Hoover and William Hearst only amplified during the Reagan years, and its only now that the brainwashed generation is passing away that legalization is becoming reality. So let’s make fun of the bad times through the vehicle of biting musical theatre. A stuffy Lecturer (DeVoe) stands on her Bully Pulpit stage left; she reads screeds and implicitly obeys authority and provides some quick cover for all the scene changes this TV influenced show demands. With her help we follow the story of clean cut Jimmy (Wright) and his sweetheart Mary Lane (Phillips) as they fall into a den of pot demons run by brutal Jack (Casey Casteel) and his moll Mae (Selia Aponte). Jimmy gets hooked in a song or two and teams up with wild eyed Ralph (Daniel Martinez) to rob the poor box and steal mom’s fur coat to feed his habit. This must be diet pot he’s smoking; he never seems to get the munchies. When joyriding in Mary “Jane” Lane’s cardboard car with bleached blond Sally (Lena Barker) he wipes out an old pedestrian. Even buff Jesus (Carlos Pereyo) can’t or won’t save him; and pretty soon we have a pile of dead bodies and big blow out ending. Yeah! Narcotics! Yeah! Gratuitous murder!

Technically, marijuana is a hypnotic, not a narcotic; but technical details don’t make for great musical theatre. I liked Jimmy and Mary as a couple; he was a full two stair steps higher than her and he gets this wonderful line: “I’m good at basket ball, but best sport is baseball!” While he never makes it to first base with Mary he gets a bases-loaded homer with Sally proving the point: “If you want action, go where the action is.” Casteel’s Jack was sharp and totally film noir evil; he kissed for profit. But like any good professional he truly loves his work and beating up Mae never feels like a chore for him. While Barker’s Sally was a great slut and Martinez’s Ralph a hyperactive demon with Princess Lea hair it’s Mr. Parejo’s Jesus that stole the show. His gold lamé shorts and oiled pecks made his superior attitude shine and his angelic chorus clearly had reasons to be cheerful.

With a live orchestra (conducted by Jamey Ray) and a simple but versatile set (courtesy of Molly Finnegan) this was a bright and colorful performance. It’s bigger than life and bigger than the propaganda that it mocks, and a cautionary tale. We are inundated by carefully crafted misinformation from every angle, and most of it sounds SO convincing. That’s doublely true when it something your primed to agree with. And I admit, I am primed to like this story. What does that say about me?

For more information on the Annie Russell Theatre at Rollins College, please visit http://www.rollins.edu/annierussell/current_season/index.html

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