Shadowbox Live is in the throes of another hit with their latest Sunday musical, “Reefer Madness,” the 2001 Off-Broadway musical spoofing the 1930’s PSA meant to scare adolescents away from smoking marijuana.
The original PSA adds manslaughter, suicide, rape and cannibalism to the munchies and apathy as side effects of marijuana use. Watching it now, the blatant fear-mongering seems ridiculously over the top, a concept the musical plays off of well.
The storyline follows high school student Jimmy Harper (Jamie Barrow) as he descends from straight-and-narrow to an alleged murderous criminal because of his addiction to “the reefer,” pulling his unsuspecting golden girlfriend,Mary Lane(Renee Horton), down with him.
The score be-bops much like a mix of “Grease” and “Little Shop of Horrors,” especially sprightly songs like “Romeo and Juliet” and “Mary Jane/Mary Lane.”
The Shadowbox Live cast nails the musical’s over-the-top innuendo and period attitudes. Barrow and Horton are a perfect duo and the leading couple. Kudos to director Julie Klein for putting two of Shadowbox’s typical second stringers in the starting lineup. Barrow was born for this role, nailing Harper’s nerdy charm and good-boy-gone-bad dalliances, while Horton’s overt ray of sunshine as the ditzy Mary never wanes or becomes annoying, as it easily could.
By definition “Reefer Madness” is an envelope-pusher that stays in the realm of the absurd and is known by some critics to be too bizarre, but in the hands of Shadowbox it becomes a beautifully ridiculous ode to the ignorance behind fear-based propaganda, and a damn good night at the theater.
“Reefer Madness” runs at Shadowbox Live, 503 S. Front Street, Columbus, through July 8. Tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for students/seniors. For more information visit www.shadowboxlive.org.