Hide your children! The demon weed is infiltrating the minds and lungs of our youth, and we must be warned of the perilous dangers of… Reefer Madness! Riddled with deep-seeded satire [pun intended] and heavily ironic propaganda, UNC Asheville Theatre Department blew audiences away with their cautionary tale of Reefer Madness: The Musical!
Set in the 1930s (in this very town!), the plot is delivered by a zealot lecturer/drama teacher who has assembled a production as a warning to the townsfolk about the new devil marijuana. The musical-inside-the-musical follows young lovebirds Jimmy and Mary Lane as they fall from peachy-keen to smoking weed – the consequences of which include, but are not limited to: murder, orgies, cannibalism inducing munchies, selling your baby for drug money, getting raped and not caring, laughing for no reason at all, and running over old people. All of this, and music too! Some highlights include: zombies, "Jimmy Takes A Hit," "The Orgy," "Listen to Jesus, Jimmy," "Dead Old Man," and a rousing patriotic conclusion complete with FDR, The Statue of Liberty, Uncle Sam, Thanksgiving Turkey, many other symbols of Americana.
I really enjoyed this production. They made some very interesting choices such as utilizing a cardboard material for all the props and furniture and constructing them largely as two dimensional objects. Not only does this reflect the one-sided and greatly exaggerated nature of their story, it also just looked really cool. They also had a balcony and, underneath, an area that served the practical purpose of moving set pieces but most importantly functioned as a sort of shadow area. Cast members backstage would either use their own shadows or shadow puppets. My particular favorite scene was when Jimmy strangled a shadow dog – and then killed a shadow cat with a shadow chainsaw. Good clean fun!
Reefer Madness: The Musical! was hilarious, irreverent, at times uncomfortably scandalous ("The Orgy" featured a young lady in nipple tassels), but overall very well done. Not all of the musical numbers were completely pitch-perfect, but there's no disputing that UNCA has some very talented students and an ambitious faculty and production staff. I suspect very few colleges or university theatre departments could pull off a show this risqué, but this is Asheville! It takes a lot to shock audiences in a town whose citizens lobby to "Keep Asheville Weird."