Front Row Centre reviews REEFER MADNESS - The Musical


REEFER MADNESS is another in series of recent irreverent musical comedies adapted from cult films. 


Originally produced in the 1930s as a piece of church propaganda to warn parents about the dangers of cannabis use, the film called TELL YOUR CHILDREN was picked up by an exploitation distributor and re-titled REEFER MADNESS.  It played a series of engagements before being abandoned. Rediscovered in the 1970s it became a cult film, popular at midnight showings in University towns.  Now, as a musical by Dan Studney and Kevin Murphy, it plays up the camp elements while sending up traditional musical comedy styles. 


Director Elenna Mosoff has staged the show in a tight, fluid production that is well served by the energetic ensemble. 


Andrew Moyes plays the stern narrator introducing a school musical that purports to help steer students away from "the stuff."  He takes his role very seriously, making it even funnier. 


As the innocent, love-struck Jimmy, Benjamin Mehl offers charm and a strong voice. The script doesn't allow him much to play in the early scenes but once he meets the evil Jack (a villainous performance by Leonard Elias) he looses his inhibitions and virtually all of his clothes in a fantastic drug-induced orgy ballet. 


Jennifer Lane offers a humorous portrait of the object of his affetection, Mary. She is a devoted yet somewhat empty-headed heroin: studying Romeo & Juliet she expresses the hope that it will have a happy ending.  Her singing has a strong robust quality that hints at the character's underlying strength. 


Mary is the "good" girl, while Christine Aziz plays the abused girlfriend of the evil Jack. Mae is actually a more interesting character because the authors have tried to give her some internal conflict; expressed in her song of addiction, "The Stuff" which is so well sung that it is unfortunate it is her only solo. 


In fact the musical values are generally well taken care of with Lily Ling leading the seven-piece band. The sound mix, however, needs some attention as in several numbers the lyrics cannot be heard clearly. 


The other production values are effective, notably the decision to make the reefer den a realistic set and use two-dimensional cutouts for the rest. It lends to the cartoonish atmosphere of the piece. 


This is a cartoon of a musical that reaches the height of irreverence with David Pereira's appearance as Jesus urging the hapless Jimmy to follow the path of righteousness.  His gospel-flavoured rouser "Listen to Jesus Jimmy" was as close to a showstopper as REEFER MADNESS has. 


The songs are well integrated into the plot, and show off quite a bit of variety including a jitterbug dance number for the kids at the local malt shop through torch songs, ballads and rousing anthems.  It's a short but enjoyable collection of songs that is well matched to the offbeat subject matter.  


Offbeat, yes. But definitely a lot of fun! 



Written by: Dan Studney & Kevin Murphy 

Directed by: Elenna Mosoff 

Theatre: Hart House Theatre 

Dates: September 15-30
Performances:  Wednesday to Saturday @ 8pm, Special midnight show Saturday Sep 30.
Tickets: $20 ($12 student/seniors) available at the Hart House box office, online at or via phone at 416.978.8849  

No smoking allowed in the theatre  

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From This Author Mark Andrew Lawrence

Mark Andrew Lawrence began his broadcasting career as music director for St. Catharines radio station CHRE. After six years there and eight years at classical (read more...)

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