Reefer Madness!

"The team of Kevin Murphy (book, lyrics), Dan Studney (book, music) and Andy Fickman (director) has exploded the basic structure of the film, creating a wonderfully inventive, super-charged musical parody, featuring a first-rate ensemble.  Driven by music director/keyboardist Nathan Wang and a taut five-piece pit band, the show gets off to a rip-roaring start as a chorus of drug-maddened zombies belt out the catchy title song, declaring that this killer weed is "'turning all our children into hooligans and whores'" Musical highlights include "Down at the Ol' Five and Dime," a jitterbug-laced tribute to the big-band-era neighborhood soda fountain, featuring an adroit dance turn by Robert Torti"s opportunistic Jack" The supporting cast members are equally impressive. Jolie Jenkins" Mary makes an impressive transition from virginal princess to whacked-out whore during "Little Mary Sunshine," in duet with John Kassir"s maniacal, limb-gnawing weed freak Ralph. Lori Alan"s Mae offers a sadly comical justification for her abuse-ridden relationship with pusher Jack because of her dependency on "The Stuff." And Erin Matthews is perfect as the life-hardened reefer slut Sally."

Julio Martinez, Daily Variety 5/25/99

CRITICS CHOICE!  "Rarity of rarities, the show kicks off with a snappy title number, with couplets such as "Creeping like a Communist/ It's knocking at our doors / Turning all our children / Into hooligans and whores!"  [The show is] a quarter-ton of fun, in the vein of "Little Shop of Horrors""  Composer Studney samples from swing to disco, from "Hair" (in a really funny orgy sequence) to "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," whose influence is all over "Listen to Jesus, Jimmy," in which Christ Himself (Robert Torti, right on the Vegas money) advises our hero" It"s helped immeasurably by performers on the period-perfect order of Lori Alan and Erin Matthews, a pair of "reefer sluts."  "Reefer Madness!" is one small-scale musical with potential to get around."

Michael Phillips, Los Angeles Times 5/8/99

"Like the 1936 film, 'Reefer Madness!' on stage smells like a cult classic" since opening in April, Reefer Madness! The New 'Hit' Musical" has played to appreciative audiences, mostly young, who obviously enjoy the show's over-the-top, Rocky Horror Picture Show-type style as well as the talented ensemble that brings it to life. It recently won five Ovation Awards, a rarity for small theatrical productions in this town, and has been extended several times" [Among those] who shine in director Andy Fickman's cast are Robert Torti as Jack, the nefarious pusher who starts Jimmy on the road to ruin and has a couple of amusing hallucinatory scenes as a hip, Vegas-style Jesus; Lori Alan as Mae, the reefer den hostess trying to escape Jack's clutches; and Erin Matthews as the "reefer slut" who loses her arm to John Kassir's crazed Ralph, an ex-college student whose addiction leads to overeating problems.  Other pluses are Michael Goorjian's inventive choreography and Dick Magnanti's wonderfully tacky costumes. The black-and-white, cartoonish set from John David Paul and Savage Steve Holland highlights the black-and-white nature of the show's feverish propaganda. Nathan Wang's inspired music-making is just about perfect."

Jay Reiner, Hollywood Reporter 12/21/99

PICK OF THE WEEK!   "Lyricist Kevin Murphy and composer Dan Studney meet the challenges of parodying the 1936 movie classic that shares this show's title and condemns the "demon weed" marijuana. An irreverent and hilarious musical extravaganza, with the book by the same inventive duo -- and complemented by Savage Steve Holland's black-and-white cartoon set, Nathan Wang's fervent musical direction and Andy Fickman's impeccable direction -- this show could well be the year's biggest musical hit" Murphy and Studney's show-stoppers include "Listen to Jesus, Jimmy" -- a dream sequence in which a buffed Christ ("I'm the poster boy for Easter") and scantily-clad angels seeking Jimmy's redemption -- and "Down at the Ol' Five and Dime," a swing tune displaying the exuberent ensemble's talents at the jitterbug and Lindy hop."

Martin Hernandez, LA Weekly 5/7/99

CRITICS CHOICE!  "The musical stage version of "Reefer Madness!" really deserves to be a phenomenon unto itself. Put a couple of tix under the tree for your cousin who is still mourning the death of Jerry Garcia... I don't know what's better -- the very clever, truly inspired, genuinely wicked show itself or this particular production, directed by Andy Fickman.It's a tight, fast-paced evening full of surprises, with a hot live band and a crack group of actor/dancer/singers playing multiple roles. (If Torti's Jesus Christ doesn't make you a believer, nothing will!) John David Paul designed the set using cartoons by Savage Steve Holland, and the comic-book feel (fleshed out by Dick Magnanti's fun, fun costumes, and a tired bimbo carrying precautionary placards throughout the show) is just super. You don't even have to inhale to appreciate it."

Meg Donivan, After Dark 1/14/00

"A zippy, high-on-style musical [with a] high-on-talent cast" Really wacky comedy thrives in the late night (and in L.A., a show that starts at 10 qualifies as "late"). You have to be edging towards exhaustion to truly appreciate Letterman's velcro suit or the Coneheads. Reefer Madness harnesses the same kind of over-the-top comic energy and by and large succeeds. By midnight, around the time Jesus visits Jimmy in the execution chamber, you'll probably be just punchy enough to giggle (especially if you've already inhaled)."

Claudia Grazioso, Backstage West 5/15/99

"Pull up your socks, sit down, and be prepared to grin from 9:00 to final curtain (though that doesn't apply in this friendly open space.) From start to finish, the new, sure-to-be-a-hit musical at the Hudson Backstage Theatre will not disappoint or allow you to doze off"  Kevin Murphy (Lyricist, Co-Book Writer, Co-Producer) and Dan Studney (Composer, Co-Book Writer, Producer) have teamed to turn out this choice piece of theater. There are witty songs, including a Reefer Madness refrain that you find yourself singing days after the production, which are hilarious, and you wish you could see the whole thing all over so you could listen more carefully to the funny lyrics. The acting is over-the-top, but never so much that it becomes tiresome. Fickman's clear attention to the smallest detail and mastery of the actor's movements produce a crisp, clever show"  From sex, blood, and zombies to political commentary, orgies, and melodrama-it has it all, and is it fun. Michael Goorjian's choreography, John David Paul's funky set design, and Nathan Wang's musical direction are all first-rate. This is a show to see more than once. Hurry and make sure you don't miss the treat of the summer."

Melinda Schupmann, Showmag 8/29/99

PICK OF THE WEEK!  "With book by Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney, lyrics by the former and music by the latter, the satire is all in director Andy Fickman's gleefully insolent style, honed with campy precision, and supported by Michael Goorjian's ebullient choreography and Dick Magnanti's whimsical costumes"  Unlike the litany of bad-movie parodies that have populated local stages over the years, with their spit-wad assaults upon pop culture, most of them put on by Theater-A-Go-Go! (Valley of the Dolls, The Poseidon Adventure -- The Musical, etc.), Reefer Madness! aims considerably higher -- or should that be lower? -- with a Rage Against Dad that flirts with patricide.  In one emblematic scene, Jimmy, driving deranged under the demon weed's influence, mortally strikes an unknown Old Man, knocking the victim flat on his back. The play shows its hand in the ensuing ditty, "Dead Old Man" -- Jimmy's mocking homage (while standing over the corpse) to the man's unread history: Whom did those liver-spotted arms once hold? Every wrinkle holds a tale. These are the kinds of sentiments so relished, and ridiculed, by the mostly youthful audience."

Steven Leigh Morris, LA Weekly 6/3/99

"In the tradition of such mock-horror spoofs as "Little Shop of Horrors," a new company called Dead Old Man Productions makes an auspicious debut with "Reefer Madness!," a no-holds-barred parody of the ancient film. The result, under Andy Fickman's fine direction, is a riotously entertaining new musical" Driven by an inspired score (lyrics by Murphy and music by Studney), under the kick-ass musical direction of Nathan Wang and a five-piece band, the energy is infectious and the wit is sharp" The cartoonish sets and props by John David Paul and Savage Steve Holland, Jason Grandpre's surrealistic lighting, and Dick Magnanti's colorful costumes, are all superbly rendered. With its classy production values and first-rate musical talent, this effort far surpasses the expected standards of late-night camp shows. It's clearly a show with a future."

Les Spindle, Frontiers 6/3/99

"A musical version of "Reefer Madness?" Can the genre be stretched this far? Should it be? After playing almost nine months in Los Angeles to packed houses, the answer seems to be yes. The musical "Reefer Madness!" qualifies as a phenomenon, and will no doubt visit other cities"  "Reefer Madness!," is largely one continuing joke, a camp send-up of the film, but transcends this limitation with a lively score played by a talented band, vibrant choreography, and a plethora of gifted young actors, singers, and dancers. They are brought together under Andy Fickman's consummate direction and Michael Goorjian's impressive choreography"  some musical highlights of this fast-paced show include the often-reprised title song, a clever marriage of horror movie organ music and hard rock; "Romeo and Juliet;" "The Stuff," Alan's wistful lament about her addiction; "Listen to Jesus, Jimmy," sung by Torti as Jesus in a hilarious Tom Jones sixties style of questionable taste; and the catchy "Down at the Old Five and Dime." 'Reefer Madness!' may not be everyone's idea of the best direction for American musical comedy, but when it is this well performed, it's a joyride worth taking."

T.S. Kerrigan, American Reporter 2/19/00

"It's wonderful to discover that a long-running hit deserves to be just that. Reefer Madness! by Kevin Murphy & Dan Studney has been playing since spring at Los Angeles' Hudson Backstage Theatre, and there's no end to the run in sight"  This new musical is a very clever, truly inspired, genuinely wicked show with bang-up musical numbers. The show has a hot live band and a super group of actors mostly playing multiple roles.  Christian Campbell is terrific as Jimmy and Jolie Jenkins is 100% adorable as his girlfriend, but the real fun comes with the lurid personalities inhabiting the dope den, headed by the jaded reefer hostess with a heart of gold (Lesli Margherita is priceless) and the devastatingly addictive pusher, Jack (Robert Torti). Andy Fickman's sure-handed direction makes it all an insanely funny, crisp and attractive package."

Theatrescope 6/17/00

"The energetic cast effectively lampoons this classic cinema dud and the hilariously overblown propaganda it embodied with over the top performances and a variety of cleverly staged musical numbers. There are lots of laughs and plenty of surprises as this high camp, rock 'n roll melodrama lures you into the dark underworld of the demon weed."

Michael Flocker, AOL Digital City Guide, 10/6/99

"Certainly not for the family is REEFER MADNESS at the Hudson Backstage Theater. This is the classic Hollywood showcase, well funded with obvious industry money, and fortunately, here the product is very good, which is not often the case" Reefer Madness! boasts Broadway caliber performers, first-rate staging, and a great pit band led by Nathan Wang. It is sharp, hip, and edgy and obviously headed for other venues"  A current example of the good theater that happens in Los Angeles. We just have to keep our eyes and ears open to it."

Louis Fantasia, Theatre Talk, KCRW National Public Radio

"Interweaving the thoroughly malleable Harry S. Murphy throughout the plot, director Fickman skillfully guides Jimmy (played to hapless perfection by Christian Campbell) down a path of moral decay that includes such morbid items as sexual deviancy, child abandonment, murder, suicide, execution, dismemberment and cannibalism.  Along the way, the production creates an infectious, high-camp life of its own, highlighted by the nonstop talent and energy of its chorus (Michael Cunio, Erik Liberman, Fidelia Rowe, Stacy Sibley, Heidi Good), further enhanced by the surrealistic production designs of set designer John David Paul, costumer Dick Magnanti, lighting designer Jason Grandpre, sound designer Randy Mills and cartoon designer Savage Steve Holland."

Julio Martinez, Daily Variety 5/25/99

"[This] hilariously campy musical parody" has become a smashing success story. Entering its eighth month of a phenomenal run, "Reefer Madness" satirizes and expands on the original subject material, which was meant to frighten teens from trying marijuana.  Recent winner of five Ovation awards, the spoof musical updates the story with humor that ranges from tongue-in-cheek to flat-out side-splitting comedy, while also making new statements about the dangers inherent in sensationalism, hysterical scapegoating and abuse of power.  Lyricist Kevin Murphy and composer Dan Studney have collaborated to create a wildly funny book and memorable score which depicts the transformation of wholesome teens into lustful, giggling, insane, homicidal reefer maniacs.  Featuring expert direction by Andy Fickman and a first-rate, talented ensemble, the show has the promise to become a staple in the musical kitsch genre made popular by such cult favorites as "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and "Night of the Living Dead"" "Reefer Madness" consists of riotously funny musical numbers, off-color humor and running gags that continually elicit giggles and guffaws from the audience.   The energetic production also features a quality creative and technical design team. The cartoon black and white set, evocative period costumes,and effective choreography all help make the show unforgettable.  "Reefer Madness!" is one of the best new musicals of recent years - it has staying power and will surely go far."  TEN STARS (OUT OF TEN)

Jessica Holt, UCLA Daily Bruin 11/30/99

"A remarkable musical parody" an eccentric musical concoction that combines elements of "Little Shop of Horrors," "Sweeney Todd" and "Rocky Horror Picture Show" to create a unique and memorable production"  The show's opening number, "Reefer Madness," features an ensemble of zombie-like, pothead prom queens, football players and Boy Scouts who sing about the horrors of smoking weed. This catchy rock "n' roll production number is a thrilling introduction that sets the stage for the madness to come.  Another outstanding musical highlight occurs when Jesus Christ himself appears before Jimmy to remind him "how cool God can be." Jesus departs the cross wearing a gold-and-silver lamé gown and sings a la Tom Jones. A chorus of angels provides backup vocals for Jesus and urges the young toker to "listen to Jesus, Jimmy." This number is a hysterical fusion of a cheesy Las Vegas revue and an even cheesier Sunday sermon.  The cast of "Reefer Madness" is outstanding. The fairly small ensemble consists of only 14 members, but their extraordinary talent and energy compensates for the small number of players. The black-and-white cartoon set is rather untraditional, but it creates a surreal effect conducive to the show's atmosphere."

Anne Chambliss, USC Daily Trojan 9/7/99

"By far the best number of the play is "Listen to Jesus, Jimmy," featuring a gold-and-silver-lamed Christ (hilariously played by Robert Torti) urging Jimmy to remember "how cool God can be." With Torti's well-honed '70s swagger, that's pretty cool, indeed.  In an all-around good cast, standouts are Erin Matthews as the hard and vampy reefer whore, Sally, who seduces sweet Jimmy into that first fatal hit ("Come on, Jimmy/Come on, Jimmy/Suck it down for Sally"); Harry S. Murphy, and Torti, who, aside from his brilliant turn as Christ, also plays Jack, the insidious drug pusher, blithely delivering lines like, "I'm going down to the five and dime, bring back some kids."

Claudia Grazioso, Backstage 5/15/99

"In short order, we meet a bizarre group of broadly etched caricatures, including the hapless hero, Jimmy Harper (perfectly played by Christian Campbell, a squeaky-clean, teen-age schoolboy; Mary Lane (the superb Jolie Jenkins), his saccharine sweetheart; Jack, a ruthless and demonic drug pusher (played by the multitalented Robert Torti, who in another scene garners major laughs as a hip Christ figure); Mae (the hilarious Lori Alan), a depraved reefer den hostess; and Sally (the excellent Erin Matthews), described as a "reefer slut."Several actor/singer/dancers play various supporting roles and form the spirited ensemble of zombie-like potheads who frequently make the joint jump, courtesy of Michael Goorjian's zesty choreography."

Les Spindle, Frontiers 6/3/99

CRITICS CHOICE!  "As Jimmy, Christian Campbell is absolutely wonderful, finding razor-sharp edges and adding dimensions to what could easily be a cut-out stock figure. And Jolie Jenkins is 100% adorable as his main -- but not too hard! -- squeeze, Mary Lane.  Of course the real fun comes with the lurid personalities inhabiting the dope den. Mae is the jaded reefer hostess with a heart of gold, and Lesli Margherita has a gift for outlandish expressions that is priceless. In the performance reviewed, Rena Strober was a fabulously fluid Sally, the child-bearing Reefer Slut; and Paul Leighton a hoot and a half as Ralph, a college drop-out to die for. And then there's Robert Torti as the pusher, Jack. With a smile that could melt whatever it is you thought heat-resistant, Torti has got to be the sexiest man on the planet. I tell you, I'd take any package from this guy, onstage or off. Oh, and he can act too. (But did I mention his smile?)"

Meg Donivan, After Dark 1/14/00

 "[The book and score] infuses fresh originality into the fun madness. Director Andy Fickman and choreographer Michael Goorjian have taken a SUPER talented cast and driven them to the edges of the stage with energy that threatens to blow the roof off this smaller theatre"  For an evening of madness that everyone can use a little of, go see Reefer Madness playing Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 9pm; Sunday matinees at the Hudson Backstage Theatre in Hollywood. It's a legal high that won't leave you with the munchies" just a hunger for more musicals like this."

Kenny Morse, CBS Radio 1110 AM

"Some standout performers are Torti, Campbell and Sibley (convincing as the young lovers way over their heads), the sultry Mathews, the properly over-the-top Narrator (Harry S. Murphy), Lori Alan (Torti's mistress and drug slave), and the delightful Samantha Harris, who, as the Placard Girl, comments in media res with pronouncements on the evils of the weed, such as how it makes you abuse animals and murder human beings."

T.S. Kerrigan, American Reporter 2/19/00

"The entire cast is inspired. Probably the most engaging of the lot is Lori Alan as Mae, Jack's girlfriend with the heart of gold. Every subtle nuance that you can wring out of her character she goes for. Other notables are John Kassir, a fellow sunk in the mire of drugs; Erin Matthews as plucky gal Sally; and even Samantha Harris, the placard girl. Their timing and fine ensemble work really holds the farce together." 

Melinda Schupmann, Showmag 8/29/99

 "The cautionary tale features stand-out performances from the cast. Harry S. Murphy plays a severe lecturer delivering dead-pan warnings about "public enemy number one" with gleeful austerity. Sweethearts Jimmy Harper and Mary Lane are perfectly captured with saccharine naivete by Christian Campbell and comic gem Stacy Sibley. Their convincing innocence makes their eventual descent into debauchery all the more amusing.  The dark world of marijuana users living in the Reefer Den is composed of the insidious drug pusher Jack (a slick Rob Torti, also double cast as lounge singer Jesus) and his reefer cohorts Mae (excellent newcomer Lesli Margherita), demented ex-college student Ralph (Paul Leighton) and "reefer slut" Sally (memorable funny face Fidelia Rowe).  One highlight from the inventive score is "Listen to Jesus, Jimmy." Torti plays Jesus, bedecked in sequins and singing a Vegas-style number in the tradition of Tom Jones. A funkadelic orgy scene where the ensemble romps about in nude-colored body stockings with strategically-placed marijuana leaves is hilarious."  TEN STARS (OUT OF TEN)

Jessica Holt, UCLA Daily Bruin 11/30/99

"Standouts in the cast include Lori Alan who's comedic timing as Mae is so expert that I predict this lady's talent will take her very far. John Kassir's insanity as a reefer addict is mondo beyondo in crazy fun. Christian Campbell and Beth Wishnie as Jimmy & Mary are wonderful, Harry S. Murphy is a chameleon of characters, all charismatically executed, and Larry Poindexter as the pusher also ends up playing Jesus in a star turn that threatens to steal the show. Erin Matthews as Sally, a reefer slut and Samantha Harris as the Placard Girl make their time on stage count.  I have to say a word about the ensemble . . . between the costume changes (great stuff by designer Dick Magnanti) and the kick ass band under the direction of Nathan Wang, this ensemble astounds with their versatility. Again, they make their moments on stage count. When Eli Myles and Rena Strober have a momentary duet of high notes to sing . . . they wail! When Aukai Cain has a moment to twirl . . . that's dancing!"

Kenny Morse, CBS Radio 1110 AM

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