Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Reefer Madness is a musical parody of the 1936 cult classic movie, which I happened to see in 1939 at the Piqua, Ohio, local drive-in (it was an adults-only showing and I was a minor, so I hid in the backseat). The musical opened in Los Angeles in 1998 and began an Off-Broadway run on September 18, 2001 (delayed by three days due to the Word Trade Center attack). It closed less than six weeks later, but has enjoyed numerous productions in the U.S. and around the world since.
To start the show, a Lecturer (Leah Shesky) ascends the left side of the stage to tell about the new evil drug, marijuana, which will turn all virtuous teenagers into drug-addicted, sex-crazed, jazz music lovers suffering from the munchies. The Lecturer tells of the tragic incident involving all-American, good boy Jimmy Harper (Phil Wong) who started smoking pot. We meet Jack (Matt Hammons), who turns Jimmy on to the weed, and also Mae (Ashley Garlick), the Reefer Den hostess. Even Jesus Christ (Matt Hammons) makes an appearance.
Jimmy makes a terrifying transition from "good egg" to "bad apple." Mary (Brigitte Losey) was Jimmy's romantic interest when he was "good." But, when "bad" Jimmy attempts to tongue-kiss a shocked Mary, it sends her running off in tears. I don't want to reveal spoilers, so I will leave it at that.
The score by Kevin Murphy (lyrics) and Dan Studney (music) is strictly 1990s uninspired pop. Alex Rodriguez's choreography is effective and down to earth. Jenn Bevard directs a large and enthusiastic young cast who tackle the musical with glee. Lighting design by Keean Molner is outstanding. Theodore Hulsker's sound design should be a little more clear, but hopefully that will be rectified. The three-piece rock and roll band under the direction of conductor Daniel Feyer at the keyboard is the best possible choice.
Brigitte Losey has a stunning voice as Mary when singing "Lonely Pew," and Phil Wong gives a splendid performance as "good boy" and "bad apple" Jimmy with a powerful voice singing "Mary Jane/Mary Lane." Matt Hammons rocks as Jesus and is pitch perfect when singing "Listen to Jesus, Jimmy" and on the flip side adds meaty emotion as villainous Jack. Leah Shesky gives an impressive performance as the Lecturer. Adam Niemann as Ralph and Christen Sottolano as Sally, two "pot heads" (Sally: "What a night, I was in more laps than a napkin), give strong performances. Mary Kalita as the Placard Girl displays large posters with campy sayings in a striking performance. The ensemble consisting of Angel Adedokun, Audrey Baker, Joey Ellington, Madeline Lambie, Sean Libiran, Patrick Maravilla, Josiah Minued, Zachariah Mohammed, and Cecily Schmidt rock in the dancing.
Ray of Light Theatre's Reefer Madness runs through October 7, 2017, at the Victoria Theatre 2961 16th street off Van Ness Ave. Tickets can be obtained online at www.rayoflighttheatre.com. Coming up next is the return of The Rocky Horror Show running October 26th through November 4.