The pace enforced throughout by Gunnels never dwells lovingly over a joke (which would be easy to do). It slams the joke home and kicks it aside to make room for the next joke.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Reefer Madness is a satiric take on the original unintentionally camp classic 1936 film warning about the Evils of Marijuana. More info here: http://www.rnh.com/show/87/Reefer-Madness. Book by Kevin Murphy (Mystery Science Theatre 3000) & Dan Studney, lyrics by Murphy, music by Studney. Purporting to be an expose of the Demon Weed, Reefer Madness is not a reverse psychology show encouraging marijuana smoking. It’s a wonderfully vicious lampoon of the whole concept of government induced hysteria. The song styles range from 1930s swing (Down at the Old Five & Dime) to Cab Calloway (Little Mary Sunshine) to Frank Zappa (Listen to Jesus, Jimmy), all done beautifully by Jon Landvick's band. It’s one of the funniest, most ruthless (“least ruthful”?) musicals you’re ever going to see. Back to Circle’s production:
Landree Fleming is luminous as the sweet, plucky, virginal Mary Lane. She also has the strongest voice in the cast. Elissa Newcorn is hysterical as Sally the Reefer Slut.
Ryan Stajmiger is spot-on as stalwart young Jimmy Harper, who goes bat-shit crazy after one puff of Lucifer’s Lawn. Tommy Bullington is incredibly Anthony Berg-like (an actor I know; they could be brothers) as Ralph, the typical movie college kid (aged 30 or so) and not afraid to go over the top, and keep going. With this show, that’s a compliment. Loved him. Liz Bollar is great as Mae, with a beautiful, clarion voice. Eric Lindahl is terrific as Jack. And Jesus. I don’t think he counted on having a fan of the show in the front row who was ready for “You can touch!” Yes, that would be my wife, Margie, who checked out the Savior’s bicep.
I was also quite fond of the Placard Girl, Stephanie Wohar, whose brief appearances are always funny, due as much to her silent reactions as to the signs she carries. And when not doing that, she sang and danced her ass off, along with the other members of the ensemble: Bobby Arnold, Julia Beck, Kyle Kuhman, Melody Latham, Joshua A. Peterson, Gina Sparacino and Neil Stratman. Reefer Madness is an ensemble effort. It has to be, or it doesn’t work. Every person onstage behaves simultaneously as if (A) it’s a total team effort and (B) each one is the star. And each of them could be the star and pull it off.
(Director Craig Gustafson has just started his Year of Sondheim. Assassins closes July 22. Promo here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TZ8ey_BGD0. A Little Night Music auditions August 27 & 28 at Village Theatre Guild, Glen Ellyn. Into the Woods will audition at Wheaton Drama next March.)