TUTS Underground kicked off their second season this past weekend with “Reefer Madness: The Musical.”
This musical is inspired by the cult classic movie of the same name from 1936. Kevin Murphy wrote the book and lyrics and Dan Studney the music. This musical was first performed in LA before being moved to NY “Off-Broadway”. Director Bruce Lumpkin’s has put together the ideal cast to portray these off the wall, wacky characters to make this musical a success. The scenic design by Ryan McGettigan fits ideally with the overall feel of the production with cartoon like backdrops and original movie images. The fun and often suggestive choreography by Dana Lewis adds to the productions success.
(Spoiler Alert: Discussion of plot below)
Taking from the original material, this musical sensationalizes the hazards of using marijuana. Audiences are taken on a downward spiral of two young, innocent teen sweethearts, Jimmy (Sean McGee) and Mary Lane (Taylor Beyer). A lecturer (Dylan Godwin) takes us through their tragic, terrifying and often humorous trek into the maddening world of marijuana use.
McGee plays this goofy, cookie cutter all American high school teen to perfection. As audiences slowly see his spiraling into the dangerous world of marijuana, going from the sweet guy singing with Mary “Romeo & Juliet” to “The Brownie Song”, McGee plays this sensationalized character with dedication. Despite knowing the over the top, unrealistic representation, audiences can’t help but want to save Jimmy from his fate. Beyer plays the naïve, sweet Mary Lane, who steals audiences hearts. Beyer’s has a rich voice and beautifully expresses her emotions through her voice in songs such as “Lonely Pew” and “Jimmy on the Lam”.
The zany, hilarious Godwin transforms into multiple other characters each time perfectly hitting his mark. From his opening number “Reefer Madness” (which you will be humming for days after the production) to “Down at the Ol’ Five and Dime” Godwin has both an edge and rich tone to his voice that commands attention. He has smooth vocals and his facial expressions convey just the right emotion to tell the audience just what he is thinking or feeling. He all but steals the show.
A dealer, Jack Stone (Nick Henderson), tricks Jimmy into not only going back to his drug house but also trying the merchandise. There we meet the dealer’s wife Mae (Kristin Warren), seductress Sally (Brooke Wilson) and the college dropout Ralph Wiley (Mark Ivy). Audiences are brought into this fearful world of addiction, seedy behavior and spiraling out of control.
Wilson, a cast regular last seen in “Hands on a Hardbody”, plays both a sad and comedic character. Audiences aren’t sure whether they should pity or hate her as she neglects her baby yet seems only guided by her addiction. Ivy plays both the college dropout and the abandoned child of Sally. His portrayal offers some of the biggest laughs despite the sad situation being portrayed. Each of these characters are framed as being hopelessly addicted unable to reason right or wrong over their need for weed.
“The Stuff” sung by Warren perfectly highlights the desire for drugs rather than anything else. Her portrayal of this rather sad dealer’s wife offers an honest look into this world. She seems the most realistic of the characters with her performance showing the struggle between being a wife and an addict as well as trying to do the right thing. Henderson plays this charming, callous dealer with a cool, chilling ease. He goes from the here try this guy to beating his wife in the blink of an eye.
The ensemble truly brings this musical together from being marijuana zombies during “Reefer Madness” to being happy go lucky kids in “Down at the Ol’ Five and Dime”. They have their work cut out for them as they must be quick with costume changes and keep up with the multitude of set changes. Each of these actors provides the perfect addition to this over the top, hilarious musical and are the icing on the top of this already perfect cake.
With states legalizing marijuana this musical seem a bit outdated, but nothing could be further from the truth. This is a humorous, witty musical with catchy, fun songs and this TUTS Underground cast provides multiple stands out performances. If you are looking for something fun and wildly entertaining, don’t miss this outrageous musical.
“Reefer Madness” is playing now through October 5. For ticket information visit their website at www.tutsunderground.com or call 713-558-8887. Be sure to check out the website to see what shows are up next and upcoming for the exciting season from TUTS and TUTS Underground.