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News (Media Awareness Project) - CN QU: Review: Reefer Is The Right Madness
Title:CN QU: Review: Reefer Is The Right Madness
Published On:2010-09-17
Source:Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Fetched On:2010-09-18 15:01:41

Carlone directs a winner at Mainline Theatre

Editor's note: This story has been corrected. See note

Reefer Madness, the Musical, now playing at Mainline Theatre, is
fast-paced, wacky, outrageous and thoroughly enjoyable.

The songs are delightful, the talent is there, and so is the
commitment. The company that calls itself Processed Theatre, led by
this show's director, Nichole Carlone, clearly believes in rehearsal
- -a creed that sometimes evaporates within improvisation-based groups.

As Jimmy Harper and Mary Lane, the Romeo/Juliet teenagers led astray,
Christopher Hayes and Emily Skahan are perfectly cast, strong in voice
and acting skills.

George Bekiarias is arresting as a bad, bad pusher who lures teenagers
into his den of iniquity, then hilariously uplifting as a superstar
Jesus backed up by a chorus of Ziegfield Follies angels (Emilie
Barrette, Hannah Eichenwald, Julie Goldenberg).

The show has an eye-catching look (flashy costumes and black-on-white
cartoon sets), a distinct style, and, more important, a shared,
consistent sense of irony. And the three-piece band (Melodie Rabatel
on piano, Sebastian Rooney on drums and clarinet, and Shayne Gryn on
bass) is top-notch.

Joanne Sarrazen manages to make a battered woman poignantly funny.
Helena-Marie Patte sends up the blond hooker role with Jean Harlow
panache. Jade Hassoune is a scene-stealer as the falsetto-voiced,
neglected baby when he's not playing a crazed addict. Christopher
Pineda is amusing in multiple roles.

Marc-Andre Poulin brings it all together as the sanctimonious lecturer
who guides the story through loss of innocence into murder, mayhem
and, of course, a (zany) redemption.

When the film Reefer Madness (also known as Tell Your Children) was
produced as a cautionary tale for teenagers back in 1938, marijuana
was clearly perceived as evil -the first temptation on a slippery
slope that led to the opium den, degradation and death.

Perceptions, however, alter with time.

By 1998, when Reefer Madness, the Musical (with book and lyrics by
Kevin Murphy, music by Dan Studney) was launched in Los Angeles, the
idea that "soft" drugs like marijuana could harm anyone was widely
ridiculed. Stoner humour had become a genre, perfected by the likes of
Cheech & Chong. The vintage Reefer Madness movie was a toker's in-joke.

In 2001, the award-winning L.A. musical version transferred to New
York had a brief off-Broadway run (2001), and was adapted into a film
in 2005.

Now, at Mainline, the reverse-preachy side of the satire does seem a
bit dated. (Recent research has shown that early marijuana use can,
indeed, trigger schizophrenia in teenagers, on the one hand, and on
the other, the wicked weed has gone boringly legit as a pain-relieving

And it's all very American (albeit anti-establishment), right down to
Roosevelt and the Statue of Liberty.

Like The Rocky Horror Show (1973), however, Reefer Madness, the
Musical is likely to live long as a cult classic. Especially if groups
like Processed Theatre keep taking it on. This vibrant production,
with its delightful toe-tapping chorus that shakes the Mainline
floorboards (the orgy number is hilarious), merits a transfer to a
larger venue. This run will probably be sold out very, very soon.

Reefer Madness, the Musical continues at Mainline Theatre, 3997 St.
Laurent Blvd., until Sept. 25. Tickets $23. Call 514-849-3378.

Correction: In the original version of Pat Donnelly's review of Reefer
Madness, the Musical in Friday's Gazette, actor Christopher Hayes was
incorrectly referred to as Christopher James. And bass player Shayne
Gryn's first name was incorrectly spelled Shane. The Gazette regrets
the errors.
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