Reefer Madness: The Musical
By Mike Marino
Killer Weed on Broadway: Fishnets and High Kicks! (Reefer Madness: The Musical) Sex…Drugs…and Show Tunes? The left over baggy of the generation of seeds and stems of Haight Ashbury’s purple hazed daze, and the tie-dyed Summer of Love have long since gone up in smoke. It was a dimebag time of rolling papers, roach clips, and badda-bing, badda-bong pipes. Tim Leary, the High Priest of The United Psychedelic States of America, told us it was high-time to turn on, tune in and drop out. If you had some spare time, along with your spare change, you could also Kick Out The Jams, Brothers and Sisters! Pot, protest and politics, combined to create a strange violently sexy menage a’ trois, and the cast of cannabis characters is the stuff of killer weed legend. Hemp, Hemp, Hooray!
Our story begins in a grassy bowl galaxay, far, far away in time..to a place inhabited by the evil troll Harry Anslinger who lived under the bridge, with his head up his ass, and was the trail blazing pathfinder of getting marijuana declared “illegal” and out of bounds, warning America of the deranged conditions it produced, turning clean cut collegians into hairy hungry werewolves in disguise, and defiling the virginal vaginal purity of the youth of America. Gasp!! Negroe’s for Christ sake smoke this jazzed up shit in Harlem, and those strange brown migrants from some alien planet south of the border are bringing their filthy weed onto American soil. It wouldn’t be long before the cream of our youth would be turned into turned on voodoo zombies ready to mass murder mom and dad in the beds where they slept.
Anslinger had an idea…let’s teach the children about the evils of the green leafy substance through moving pictures, graphic photographs that move in a thin strip and fill a movie palace theaters big screen with enough mayhem and screams.
Referred to and refrenced to as Reefer Madness, a film was produced 1936 called Teach Your Children, sort of a high school hygiene class film documentary that showed American youth engaged in wild abandon and debauchery. Nothing like a little debauchery to set the hipsters apart from the oldsters. Of course, it was all anti-pot political bullshit, as is most information that spills out of the government cavity. It backfired however, as Anlslingers slingshot did not disuade “youth” from the evil weed, in fact, the film became an iconic cult classic in the altered state Sixties asthe doobie darling of the midnight marijuana madness movies. Of course, one had to be stoned to truly appreciate the childlike presentation of the film. It packed the houses like a well rolled joint and laughter filled the theater thicker than all the weed that was going up in smoke.
The Wasp-like youth of American, pure and virginal in the dirty Thirties, unlike those of color, black, brown, red, are the target of the corrupt dope dealers who want to strip them of their virginity, their respect for the red, white and blue and mom and apple pie. (The pie would be replaced with brownies from the kitchen of Alice B. Toklas in short order!) The storyline involves innocent Bill and Mary, high schoolers played by actors in their late 20’s or early 30’s, so much for credibility Harry! Bill and Mary for the most part don’t smoke tea, they drink it after a few rounds on the tennis courts, but then again, every clean cut person has a looming Eddie Haskell in their lives, just ask Wally and Beaver, yes, Beaver and don’t get me going in that direction! This Eddie is named Jack, and he invites the wholesome delicious looking couple up to this apartment where dopers and stoners while away the hours in oblivious abandon. They have fiendish laughs and dance wildly to the crazed piano player who does more than tickle his ivories..he fucks them with pounding motion until they orgasm.
Bill becomes hooked on the evil weed after one joint. If only he knew he could say “I never inhaled” and the story would have gone down a different road. Mary also tries one and after it begins to giggle as Ralph the Addict cops feel after feel of fresh flesh like a garden of Hedon at his fingertips. Bill, hearing and not believing his eyes bursts out of the bedroom to mix it up with Ralph, and in the fray, Mary is accidentally shot…followed more shootings, courtroom drama and the inevitable sentencing to a mental institution…the film ends with a voice from on Hollywood high, godlike, says “The dread marijuana may be reaching forth next for your son..or daughter…or yours..or YOURS!!”
It was a black and white propaganda extravaganza that morphed into a marijuana meets Ethel Merman show tune filled lollapalooza in 1998 in the City of Angels. Satire? Reefer Madness…the musical? You bet your ass!
It opened on the Left Coast at the Hudson Theater, then this off beat beast headed east for the off Broadway production that high kicked in campy fish nets in September of 2001. It was the roar of the roar of the crowd and the smell of the green leafy greasepaint on the move. The curtain went up and the crowd was wowed. It was a “hit” so to speak, no pun intended. It has now taken it’s pot pedestal stance on the shelf along with other camp favorites such as Rocky Horror Picture Show, Young Frankenstein and San Francisco’s outrageous Beach Blanket Babylon. Crank up the camp!
The stage play was not My Fair Lady, or West Side Story but a faithful, lyrical representation of the original black and white celluloid incarnation on the silver screen. Unlike the filmatic by the fanatic Anslinger, this one has a voice, or many voices, and tunes, show tunes, toke tunes, reefer references, and cannibus camp with such songs as Jimmy Takes a Hit, The Dead Old Man, Jimmy on the Lam, the Brownie Song, Little Mary Sunshine and the Finale: Reefer Madness. Everybody now..sing along!
A film version was made for Showtime on TV in 2005. Since then local theater groups have undertaken to daunting task of producing this little gem in theaters from London to Sydney to Seattle. When Showtime aired the premier of the film, someone at programming was actually paying attention and played it back to back with the original film that was it’s inspiration for the musical interpretation. It became available on DVD just before Christmas in 2005. Mary-wanna Emmy? No problemo, it won in 2005 for music and lyrics, and garnered Emmy nominations for choreography and make-up.
So there is our tale as it was told to us by the Wise Ones who were there. Anslinger, fortunately is deader than a doornail…Medical Marijuana is making “headway” and decriminalization is looming somewhere near the horizon. So no matter what they say about the green leafy matter…There’s no business like dope business..sing it loud…sing it proud! It’s showtime girls…get ready to high kick in those fishnets! Yeah, Yeah, Yeah….