Reefer Madness is Coming to Nashville!!!

While it could legitimately be argued that reefer madness has long been in Nashville (apparently firmly ensconced at Legislative Plaza) today our headline is referring to Tennessee’s theater rather than its politics.

This Reefer Madness is a theatrical musical comedy satire of the 1936 cult film classic of the same name. However, it is more than just a satirical musical theatre romp, it’s a mirror into the not so distant past, a past we seem to be reliving in our current fear-based political climate.

The production is a highly stylized and satirical political commentary. It contains adult humor, religious parody and drug use, as well as suggested violence and sexual explicitness. It may be inappropriate for younger audiences. The book and lyrics were written by Kevin Murphy and the music by Dan Studney. Directed by Andy Fickman, it was initially shown at the Hudson Theater on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles and then moved to the New York “Off-Broadway” scene. The show opened Off-Broadway on September 15, 2001, and closed shortly thereafter, a theatrical casualty of the 9/11 NYC attacks.

This raucous musical comedy takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the hysteria caused when clean-cut kids fall prey to the evil demon weed, “Marijuana”, which leads them on a hysterical downward spiral filled with racy jazz music, sex and violence.

The addictive and clever musical numbers range from big Broadway-style showstoppers to swing tunes like ‘Down at the Ol’ Five and Dime’ and the Vegas-style ‘Listen to Jesus, Jimmy,’ featuring J.C. Himself leading a chorus of showgirl angels.

Speaking with Tennessee NORML about the upcoming show, Jason Lewis, director of the Nashville production by ACT1, said: “For my 21st birthday, a college roommate gifted me a VHS copy of the original 1936 film ‘Reefer Madness.’  At the time, I hadn’t had any experience with the subject matter of marijuana, but having friends who had, I knew the film’s depiction of it’s use to be utterly ridiculous.”

He went on to say “However, as funny it is now, the original Reefer Madness took a misinformed American public and left them pandering to their own fear en masse, creating a dangerous air of “I’ll just let politicians think FOR me.” Years later, when I became an advocate for cannabis legalization through the medical side of the issue, I had an epiphany. The failed US ‘War on Drugs’ policies, such as lumping marijuana in with such life-ending drugs as cocaine and heroin on Schedule 1, to the heavily weighted sentences imposed on our minorities, can all be traced back to this particular government-funded piece of propaganda.”

He also stated “I believe that marijuana prohibition does nothing but divert attention away from real and truly dangerous substance abuse issues. It allows the government to profit off of low-level criminality, thereby ruining the lives of those arrested for use and possession of a plant put on earth BY nature.”

We asked how this much preferable version of Reefer Madness made it to Tennessee, and Jason told us “When the musical parody of the original movie came about, I was thrilled.  Theatre has mind-changing qualities that allow you to educate through entertainment, even when the delivery method is over-the-top campy and tongue-in-cheek. Unfortunately, the original production opened off-Broadway the week before 9/11, an event which forced virtually all NYC theatre productions to close. My hope in mounting this very timely production is that I can somehow pay my respects to all the hard work of the original writers, cast and crew, since their show never got the opportunity to reach the wider audience it deserved.”

Tennessee NORML learned that ACT 1 (Artists’ Cooperative Theatre) is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing theatrical gems – both classical and modern – to Nashville audiences. Now in its twenty-eighth season, ACT 1 has presented productions of more than one hundred of the world’s greatest plays. They have continually received high praise from critics and audience members alike, and its productions and performers are recipients of multiple prizes and awards.

This production is directed by Jason Lewis, who also provided set design & props and produced by Leslie Berra, who doubles as costume designer. Musical direction is by Rollie Mains and the Choreography by Stephanie Jones-Benton.

Featured Cast Members Include: Ben Gregory as THE LECTURER, Cameron Gilliam as JIMMY HARPER, Maggie Wood as MARY LANE, Trey Palmer as JACK, LaDarra Jackel as MAE, Andy Riggs as RALPH and Nikki Berra as SALLY.

REEFER MADNESS: THE MUSICAL  (Presented by Act1 Theatre Company)
WHERE:  Darkhorse Theatre, 4610 Charlotte Avenue, Nashville, TN
WHEN:  June 9-24 (Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30PM, Sundays at 2:30PM.  House opens 30 minutes prior to curtain.)
TICKETS:  General Admission: $20. Available to purchase at tickets.act1online.com as of Monday, May 29. Credit/Debit Card purchases can be made online. ACT 1 accepts cards and cash at the door. All seats are General Admission, on a first come, first served basis.
DIRECTIONS AND PARKING: Take exit 205 from I-40 west of Nashville and turn onto 46th Avenue North (This will be a left turn if you are coming from the East or a right turn if you are coming from the West). Turn right on Charlotte Avenue. The Darkhorse Theatre will be located on your right, across the street from McDonalds.
Free, convenient and safe parking is available in the SunTrust Bank parking lot at the corner of 46th and Charlotte Avenue.

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