The Record

October 14, 2001 -- (New Jersey)


by Robert Feldberg
Staff Writer

Musicals can happen in odd ways.

Take "Reefer Madness," the spoof of the 1936 pseudo-documentary movie on the evils of marijuana.

Kevin Murphy was driving from a film location in Oakland, Calif., back to Los Angeles with Dan Studney, his pal from Drew University in Madison and collaborator on two college musicals.

"Dan had never heard Frank Zappa," said Murphy, who promptly put on Zappa's "Joe's Garage." "There was a line about Catholic girls smoking reefer, and that led us to [the film] 'Reefer Madness.' For the rest of the trip, we talked about making it into a musical, and by the time we reached Los Angeles we had part of it done."

The show - with Murphy writing the lyrics, Studney the music, and both men collaborating on the book - debuted in Los Angeles in April 1999 and ran for a year. It opened last Sunday off-Broadway, at the Variety Arts Theater, to mixed reviews.

Murphy, 34, got the theater bug as a teenager growing up in Tabernacle in South Jersey and became involved in community theater while in high school. Although he and Studney both ended up in television, as sitcom writers and producers, after graduating from Drew, they remained on the lookout for a story they could turn into a musical.

"Reefer Madness," which became a cult film thanks to the hilarity of its depiction of one puff of marijuana leading to doom, might seem a hard work to make fun of, but Murphy said that wasn't so.

"What we were aiming at is the mind-set of the movie," he said. "That's what we're spoofing."

Staff Writer Robert Feldberg's e-mail address is



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