June 30, 2001
Bong & Dance:
Reefer Madness
Will Be Smokin'
at OB's Variety Arts,
Sept. 17
by David Lefkowitz

Much like a certain ex-President, New York theatregoers were expected to inhale but didn't. Reefer Madness, an L.A. hit, was on its way to Off-Broadway last fall, and then in spring 2001, but available theatres of the right size were few and far between, so the show stayed in a hovering mode.

Finally, the smoke has cleared, and Reefer Madness will open this fall, starting previews at Off-Broadway's Variety Arts Theatre Sept. 17 for a premiere in mid-October. The campy musical comedy, with music by Dan Studney, lyrics by Kevin Murphy, and a book by the duo, has, by most accounts, a Little Shop-pop style score. The show is based on a 1936 film drama that was meant as a cautionary tale to keep young people away from marijuana. Over the years, the movie's exaggerated acting, ham-fisted dialogue, one-sided viewpoint and medically questionable storyline turned it into a cult favorite of grade-Z movie lovers – not to mention potheads, who'd line up for midnight showings and watch the flick through a vale of smoke and a pile of munchies.

James Nederlander, Jr. is the lead producer, co-producing with Verna Harrah, in association with Nathaniel Kramer. The tuner has yet to be cast, according to a spokesperson at the Richard Kornberg press office. In the L.A. mounting, Christian Campbell (actress Neve's brother) took home an Ovation Award for Lead Performance.

In fact, Reefer Madness lit up the West Coast, winning five Ovations, including Ensemble and Best Musical in a Small Theatre; and seven L.A. Drama Critics Circle Awards, including outstanding production (a tie with Interact's The Cherry Orchard), Musical Score, Lead Performance (for Campbell). Direction and Choreography.

Director Andy Fickman has again been tapped to roll Reefer, with pop star Paula Abdul still signed on as choreographer.

Asked about the content of Reefer Madness, producer Nederlander told syndicated columnist Cindy Adams (July 2), "It's a cross between Little Shop of Horrors and 'Leave It To Beaver.'" He also mentioned that the show's original cast recording will be released by DreamWorks.


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