BWW Reviews: REEFER MADNESS Deserves Some Buzz: It Really Is a 'Hit'!
One certainly doesn't need to get high to enjoy all the buzz from the Being Revived production of Reefer Madness, running at Frederick Community College through April 13.
Expertly directed in the hands of David Norman, this rarely-produced, cult classic musical is an outstanding production, with every over-the-top comedic moment and high-energy musical number (under the impeccable music direction of Jonas Dawson) leaving the audience "jumping"!
Reefer Madness features exceptionally talented lead characters and ensemble members. Steve Custer as Jimmy and Karilee Grossnickle as Mary were the quintessential all-American couple turned "evil" in response to their rapid downfall due to "the Reefer". Both actors were equally strong in their solo moments and displayed excellent chemistry in their comedic and love scenes. Custer in particular demonstrated wonderful charisma and Grossnickle has the art of her sugary-sweet "campy" moments down to a science.
David Porterfield as the Lecturer, and many other dual roles, was one of the highlights of an excellent production. From his spirited introduction, to his crisp diction, to his versatility in transforming from one unique role to the next, Porterfield was the superb heart and soul of the production, and his improvised interactions with the audience were hilarious.
Samantha Eyler as Sally was perfectly sexy, smarmy and spot-on as an accomplice to the "Reefer madness". Her confident delivery and come backs provided some of the best moments of the production, while Thomas Schultes as Ralph expertly balanced both his comedic and creepy moments. Lauren Kuhn as Mae was touching, though she sometimes failed to match the zany energy and vocal power of her fellow actors.
In a cast filled with perfectly over-the-top moments and zany comedic skills, Eric Jones in his dual role as villain Jack and Jesus Christ was truly the stand-out performance. His speech and mannerisms were an absolute perfect replica of a typical 1930's mobster goon and some of his more despicable moments were executed perfectly, leaving the audience with a collective spine tingle as though Jones had actually stepped out of a 1930's or 1940's gangster film. Jones truly provided the best performance of the night in a dead-on era impersonation.
Also perfectly matched to the time period was the costume design by Meaghan Barry. The show featured many different costume requirements, ranging from cute and clean all American bandstand glad rags to outrageously risque outfits and the costumes more than rose to the occasion, with a sharp eye and perfect attention to smaller period-appropriate details. The sparse set, only a few black walls adorned with varied marijuana leaf patterns, allowed the audience to focus on the excellent performances and crisp ensemble staging.
The Reefer Madness ensemble also deserves special recognition for easily transforming from Americana teenagers to angels to drug-addicted zombies and a wide variety of roles in between. All of the dance sequences featured extremely crisp and clean choreography and the ensemble was effortlessly in sync. The "Down at the Old Five and Dime" musical number in Act I was especially impressive and a perfect over-the-top introductory number. The musical also featured several well-placed nods and spoofs of famous Broadway musicals, which were enthusiastically "milked" by the cast and all the more appreciated by the audience. The ensemble featured Brittney Bartlett, Mel Beatty, Trey DeRaimo, Anthony Marchese, Maggie O'Grady, Karen Paone, Annelyse Santos, Scott S. Turner and Tori Weaver.
Reefer Madness continues to run April 11 and 12 at 8:00 pm, with a closing matinee performance on April 13 at 2:00 pm. Tickets are $10 general admission and $7 for students and seniors. All performances occur at the Frederick Community College Studio Theater in Frederick, Maryland. Due to limited seating (and ironically, considering the subject matter), only 420 seats are available for the entire run of the show, so please arrive early in order to ensure tickets. This musical is not appropriate for children or young audience members. No advance reservations are accepted, so you don't want to miss this "hit" of a musical.
Photo Credit: Travis Fouche/Being Revived