REEFER MADNESS THE MUSICAL! by Adrian Lackey and Paul Morgan Donald, directed by Sanjay Talwar, with Albert W. Howell, Araxi Arslanian, Alec McClure, Matt Baram, Kerry-Ann Doherty, Gregory Thomas, Claire Frances Muir and Michael Rawley. Presented by Bare Arse Co-op at Tim Sims Playhouse (56 Blue Jays Way). Runs to April 21, Thursday-Friday 9 pm, Saturday 10:30 pm. $15. 416-343-0011. Rating: NNN
warning -- reefer madness the
Musical! could be habit-forming. But while Adrian Lackey's version of the 30s film that shrieked the dangers of the demon weed has its share of laughs, a half-size hit would be as satisfying.
Led by school guidance counsellor/state prosecutor Dr. Alfred Carrol (Albert W. Howell), we watch the destruction of a quartet of healthy American teens when two of them toke up on Mary Jane.
Intentionally tongue-in-cheek, the performances sometimes reach over-the-top heights, but pot doomsayers would nod approvingly. What the show doesn't need are Paul Morgan Donald's songs, which rarely contribute to the humour and in fact are often badly sung.
Still, the talented actors don't blow off the naive, sometimes repetitious material under Sanjay Talwar's exuberant direction. Howell lugubriously intones the message without cracking a smile, while Kerry-Ann Doherty sends up the tragic heroine, never losing her virginal sweetness, and Alec McClure's red-blooded sports hero gets laughs with his Elvis alter-ego.
The always excellent Araxi Arslanian, a smoky-voiced black-widow spider in flaming red, blends the suggestiveness of Mae West with the toughness of Barbara Stanwyck.
Best of all is Matt Baram as Jimmy, the nerdy Kiwanis Festival pianist who falls victim to marijuana. Smoking a joint like it's his first breath of air, alternately giggling hysterically and sulking paranoically, Baram nearly steals the show. As does his hair, which goes from a modified bride-of-Frankenstein coif to a fly-away mad-scientist overgrowth with a touch of Harpo Marx as his addiction takes over.