Thursday, July 20, 2000


by Robert Hofler

NEW YORK -- The Nederlanders are looking to make one of their few forays into the world of Off Broadway theater. James Nederlander Jr. has joined with Verna Harrah of hotel fame to produce the Gotham production of "Reefer Madness," a musical based on the 1936 cult film about the evils of marijuana that played for more than a year at the Hudson Theater in Los Angeles.

The deal is 50/50 between the two producers, Nederlander taking the theater lead with Harrah the lead producer for a possible film deal. A fall Gotham premiere is being sought.

Producers had considered the Kit Kat Klub, but when that venue went to Jordan Roth’s incoming production of "The Rocky Horror Show," they began looking downtown at Off Broadway theaters.

"The Nederlanders are convinced they don’t want it in one of their cavernous houses," a source said. "There are certain Off Broadway houses that make sense." The Nederlander org did not comment.

Andy Fickman, who directed the world premiere production of "Reefer Madness," will helm the New York production. He also directed "The Gift," currently running at West Hollywood’s Tiffany Theater.

First major theatrical credit

"Reefer Madness" is the first major theatrical credit for composer Dan Studney and lyricist Kevin Murphy, who are co-writers of the book. They had previously collaborated as producer-writers on the TV series "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" and "Weird Science."

Paula Abdul performs choreographer duties for "Reefer Madness." She and the rest of the creative team would be making their Gotham theatrical debuts with the smoking tuner.

With its rather large cast of 12, the Studney-Murphy musical would only make economic sense if staged in one of Off Broadway’s bigger spaces, a 399- to 499-seat venue, such as the Variety Arts, Minetta Lane or Union Square theaters, all of which are currently booked with shows.


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