REEFER MADNESS THE MUSICAL! by Adrian Lackey and Paul Morgan Donald, directed by Sanjay Talwar, musical direction by Avery Saltzman, with Albert Howell, Araxi Arslanian, Alec McClure, Matt Baram, Kerry-Ann Doherty, Gregory Thomas and Claire Frances Muir. Presented by Bare Arse Productions Co-op at the Tim Sims Playhouse (56 Blue Jays Way). Previews tonight (Thursday, April 5), opens Friday (April 6) and runs to April 21, Thursday-Friday 9 pm, Saturday 10:30 pm. $15. 416-363-0011.
actor greg thomas and i are belting back coke and coffee while gobbling a sugar-rich brownie called Chocolate Sin.
We've got the munchies -- perfect, since we're talking about Reefer Madness The Musical!, in which Thomas gets to tempt naive, red-blooded all-American youth. The 1997 Edmonton Fringe hit is based on the 30s shock film about the dangers of the demon weed. According to the film, marijuana turns you into a dangerous sex maniac after a single puff.
"I get to wear a zoot suit and some wicked facial hair," he laughs, getting into the part with a wild look in his eye.
Sex, murder and a number of satiric songs fill out the evening. There's even a trip to heaven and hell.
The original Reefer Madness was intended to show marijuana as the worst of evil drugs, far more dangerous than heroin or opium. In the 70s, audiences watched Reefer Madness from a different perspective, toking up to laugh at its over-the-top outrages.
"It's time to take the piss out of those earlier attitudes," notes Thomas, whose thoughts gush out quickly.
"The film stresses the unleashed violence in pot smokers, but about all we can imagine now is that a stoned person might eat all your pizza.
"Policy-makers and those in power define what's right and wrong by controlling the information going to the public. Most people simply accept what they're told."
Not Thomas. Born in the Northwest Territories and raised in the small town of Nipawin, Saskatchewan -- another fine Toronto actor, Faradee Rudy, was a school classmate -- Thomas played a lot of competitive hockey.
But after being hit in the head too many times and not growing as big as the other guys, he went to Toastmasters to polish his speaking skills and spent a summer at a circus camp. A high school teacher turned him on to theatre, and he moved east to study drama at the U of T.
Since graduation, Thomas has hardly stopped working. There's an edge to his performances, an unblurred energy that threatens to spill either into laughter or danger. He's flirted with commedia figures (Princess T), played an indecisive anti-hero (SubUrbia), dabbled in the classics (Spring Awakening and Hamlet) and burned the stage as a coke-snorting artist and lady's man (The Happiness Channel). He's also shone in two plays directed by Guillaume Bernardi, an unconventional Six Characters In Search Of An Author and The Progress Of Love, in which he used his stilt-walking skills.
"I subscribe to the Ellen-Ray Hennessy School of Acting, which is that you should do everything. The range of shows I've done has given me confidence in the craft, a sense of how to put to good use what I've learned."
And does any of the cast really light up Mary Jane in Reefer Madness?
"You might smell the sweet aroma of herbal tea," Thomas confides. "But at the Fringe premiere, three audience members lit joints -- just sparked 'em up and hauled away. No surprise that the show become a cult hit."