Sometimes the title of a musical is enough to get a sense of what you’re in for — and "Reefer Madness," showing through June 30 (at various locations), certainly hints that it might not be the 1930s, family-friendly public service announcement (i.e. propaganda film) on which the musical is loosely based.
The fourth annual summer musical for Doctuh Mistah Productions, "Reefer Madness" certainly fits with their mission of producing musicals that are a bit more off the beaten path. Charting the downfall of two sweet and innocent youth as they tangle with temptation, "Reefer Madness" throws historical accuracy out the window in its hyperbolic and hilarious romp through the dangers of drug abuse.
Giving the actors a chance to really ham it up in this campy musical, director Michael McKelvey offers them the opportunity to let loose and have a great time. And it’s clear that’s precisely what they’re up to with an abundance of energy and potty-mouthed glee (apparently reefer makes you a potty mouth).
Over the course of two acts, things get increasingly bawdy and the characters smoke so many doobies, we suspect the props crew must have been rolling oregano for a month (and, yes, we’re assured it’s just oregano).
Kudos to the cast and crew for adjusting to a mid-run switch in venues, and we can only imagine how intimate and awkward the show likely is in the Spiderhouse Ballroom – with the curvaceous and increasingly scantily clad cast practically in our laps.
As the innocent couple doomed for drug-induced annihilation, Joey Banks and Sarah Marie Curry are beyond adorable. The pair have excellent comedic timing and a sense of genuine naivety that (in spite of being extreme caricature) we completely fall for.
As the lecturer, Jose Villarreal is charming, and Nathan Brockett is delightfully despicable as the corruptor of youth. Libby Dees-Detling and Kim Wilson manage to pull laughter with their facial expressions alone, and there isn’t a weak link in the whole ensemble.
Though some minor issues with sound mixing resulted in lyrics getting lost between the chorus and the band in the bigger numbers, the choreography more than compensates by giving us an array delightful dance routines to watch when we can’t quite hear.
The only major failing of the production is in the set design, which, in spite of a cheeky acknowledgement of its "expense," really drags the otherwise high quality of the production down.
"Reefer Madness" continues various dates and times at Dougherty Arts Center and Spiderhouse Ballroom through June 30th. Tickets $15-22. Visit doctuhmistuh.org for tickets and show times.