By Laurel Sharette
Reefer Madness is a musical comedy which premiered in 1998 based on the 1936 propaganda film of the same name. The 1936 movie is a cautionary tale which tells the story of innocent, wide-eyed, teenagers who are led into a life of debauchery and marijuana addiction by drug dealers who, like most drug dealers, lure their prey with wild parties and Jazz music. The musical was also adapted in the 2005 movie “Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical” starring Kristen Bell, Neve Campbell, and Alan Cumming.
I went to Dark Horse Company Theatre’s production of Reefer Madness at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City on Friday night. The parking was a bit tricky but expected in Park City. The theatre was intimate, well lit, and filled with a light fog, which really contributed to the overall feeling of the show. The play begins with a lecturer at a podium (played by Allen Smith) warning the audience of the dangers of the new drug “reefer” and its threat to the American way of life. Luckily for the audience, there are even explicit warnings about marijuana’s dangers – “Reefer makes you a pathological liar” and “Reefer annihilates true love” are just two of the many helpful and true statements the author deigns to teach us. Allen Smith brings The Lecturer to life with clear diction, clear objectives and real investment in a character who some may find hard to identify with.
The Lecturer introduces the audience to the young naive couple Mary Lane (played by Natalia Noble) and Jimmy Harper (Justin Banks). Natalia is fantastic as Mary Lane. She brings versatility to the fresh-faced adolescent she plays and sings beautifully. Justin Banks plays the male lead Jimmy. While his singing was great, there were times I felt his approach to Jimmy was a bit forced and he seemed to be trying just a bit too hard ensure the audience believes he is an upright wholesome youth. As soon as he transforms into a marijuana junkie, his acting improves measurably and his character becomes a lot more believable. The reefer den host named Jack is played by Tyson Baker. His old timey drug dealer persona is executed skillfully but his dialect as Jack isn’t consistent. The reefer den hostess, Jack’s girlfriend Mae is played by Eve Speer whose portrayal of a ruined woman addicted to reefer and abused by her pusher boyfriend is masterful. Eve is an amazing singer. I particularly enjoyed her sexy rendering of the song “The Stuff” in which Mae bemoans her wasted life and highlights the intricacies of reefer addiction. My favorite part of the play is when Mae sings “The fun sometimes escapes me when Jack gets stoned and rapes me. Nothing numbs me better than the stuff.”
Two of the denizens of the reefer den are Ralph, a college boy led astray by reefer, and Sally, who sells her baby for reefer – like you do. Ralph is played by Marc Nielson. His strung out portrayal of Ralph is a little on the extreme side and his acting isn’t top notch, but he has an amazing voice and once he starts singing it’s easy to forget his performance’s shortcomings. Marissa Poole’s portrayal of Sally is sexy, clever, and fun. The supporting cast is made up of Stephanie Pike Thomas – an amazing dancer, Aaron Cole, Adan Jorq, Ana Lemke, and Mindy Anderson. This ensemble is spunky, energetic, and a joy to watch. The show is expertly directed by William Richardson and accompanied by a live band – and a very skilled one at that.
Reefer Madness is so much fun and I highly recommend it. Ticket prices are reasonable, the cast is spectacular, the music is beautiful, and the show is hilarious – even to those who are not reefer aficionados. Put away your paraphernalia and head down to the Egyptian Theatre for Reefer Madness – you only have till Sunday to enjoy this spectacular production.
Dark Horse Company Theatre presents Reefer Madness by Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney.
The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main Street, Park City, Utah, 84060.
Remaining shows: April 27th at 8 PM and April 28th at 6 PM.
Tickets: Reserved Seats $25 Advance/$30 Door
Front-of-House $29 Advance/$34 Door; Cabaret Seats $39 Advance/ $44 Door