Reefer Madness

★★★
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Reefer Madness
Published 16 Aug 2016

In 1936, the arrival in America of an extremely dangerous new drug led to one of the most execrably dire, unintentionally hilarious films ever made. Reefer Madness warned that cannabis could lead to violence, murder, rape. “TELL YOUR CHILDREN”, screamed the film’s ending. Obviously, it got made into a musical.

Bristol-based Impromptu Productions have revived Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney’s hilarious creation, written in 1998, with a slickly choreographed and completely barmy show. Faithful to its insane source material, it follows Jimmy and Mary-Lane, two good Christian high school kids, who succumb to the ravages of reefer and up either dead or in the electric chair. 

There’s a clear debt to Rocky Horror here in the high camp silliness and catchy songs, and a premonition of Book of Mormon in its merciless mockery of authority, religion, conservatism and rank idiocy. 

Marco Andreas Lissoni’s choreography sees the cast engage in intense, sweaty skin-on-skin action as they jive and writhe their way through the action. Almost every number ends in a blaring, full cast chorus line with the singers either half-naked or donning ridiculous costumes – angels, babies, even the Statue of Liberty makes an appearance. 

And two performances in particular—Jamie Dodd as innocent young Jimmy and Adam Stanford as the stern Lecturer, who narrates the show—make this a particularly strong production, finding real value in an obscure musical and showcasing real talent in its cast.