Opening night of “Reefer Madness the Musical” at Waterfront Playhouse was lively, loud and loaded with laughs as the cast danced and sang its way through the night. The music was exceptional, the costumes sharp and not a moment was wasted in one of the most entertaining plays of the season.
Based on an exploitation film released in the 1930s, “Reefer Madness” was intended to scare students and their parents about the dangers of marijuana use and the tragedies that follow. The film didn’t go over well until it was rediscovered in the 1970s by potheads and became an unintentional comedy and cult classic.
Classic is the production now in its second year at the Waterfront, with many of the original cast members still deserving of the howling laughter, whistles and applause they received Wednesday night.
Smoke filled the stage at the appropriate times and the actors’ professionalism and enthusiasm raised the bar early, keeping it up throughout the entire performance. With all the dancers, strobe lights, props and smoke, one can go into sensory overload … even if not already loaded!
David Black is the lecturer whose commanding voice and articulate arguments warn the public of the dangers of marijuana. It can make you giggle for no good reason: “Don’t let the reefer kick you in the keister … Reefer makes you sell your babies … Or kill poor old men …” Looking like one of the Baldwin brothers, Black provides a performance on par with the best of them. Also commendable are the young stars of the show, Jimmy played by Marc Crow and Mary Lane played by Kristen Michelle Bussiere. This cute-as-a-button duo oozes innocence and young love until Jimmy gets dragged over to the dark side by weed pusher Jack, perfectly played by the sexy and sultry Denis Hyland. Also stellar in his appearance as Jesus, Hyland’s confidence is a huge ingredient in his success on stage.
Mary Falconer portrays Mae, the lingerie-clad girlfriend of Jack who despises the violent man and his practices but can’t leave him because she likes the “stuff” he sells. Her solo is calm, cool and collected as she struts her stuff while puffing Jack’s stuff; the audience is instantly enamored of her. And the same goes for her floozy of a friend Sally, played by Nulita Loder. With wide-eyed expressions and witty little banter, Loder pulled in loads of laughs and captured the ’30s era with every gesture and line. “I was on more laps that a napkin last night” being one of my personal favorites.
Ralph, a college drop-out turned pothead, is played by Michael Aaglan and looks so much like Jim Breuer from “Half Baked” that the matter has to be addressed. Aaglan’s over-the-top antics are at the top of the list of why this play is so amusing.
And of course you cannot help but commend each one of the reefer zombies for each of their stand-out performances — each bringing a needed aspect to the stage. Carolyn Cooper, Rhett Kalman, Kyla Piscopink, Leigh Pujado, Scott Shambaugh and Philip Griffin Tabb all display dance moves that rival the wannabes from “Dancing with the Stars.” There are lifts, twirls, leaps and jitterbugs going on and nobody misses a beat in the seamless performance. The costumes are plentiful and perfect throughout, the set superbly simple although it changed often.
“Reefer Madness the Musical” is directed by Danny Weathers, choreographed by Penny Leto and under the musical direction of Michael Fauss, who thought of everything and executed it well. The play is not to be missed even if you aren’t a fan of cannabis.
The premiere was followed Wednesday night by a scrumptious spread from Square One restaurant.
“Reefer Madness the Musical” runs through April 12 with 8 p.m. curtain call. Tickets are $35, available by calling the box office at 294-5015 or by visiting water frontplayhouse.org.
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