Marijuana madness

Queen’s Musical Theatre’s spring show Reefer Madness gives audiences a look into the cannabis craze of the 1930s

Drama student Alyssa Leclair plays the role of The Lecturer in the musical theatre piece Reefer Madness. She is the primary storyteller in the show.
Drama student Alyssa Leclair plays the role of The Lecturer in the musical theatre piece Reefer Madness. She is the primary storyteller in the show.

The cannabis debate of the 1930s gets an over-the-top and contemporary punch in the stage show Reefer Madness.

Queen’s Musical Theatre’s spring production will bring the 1936 film-turned-musical to the stage on campus.

Prior to chatting with members of the production, I assumed the play would be a typical overdramatic theatre piece.

But just minutes after, I quickly realized that the show is as thought provoking as it is exuberant. Director Joey Graff echoed that Reefer Madness is both a serious and silly story.

“The show can be taken as a joke with a very terrifying and very real punch line,” Graff, ArtSci ’13, said.

Reefer Madness is a parody riddled with satire, which eventually inspired its off-Broadway musical adaptation in 2001. Graff said the show deals with how popular cannibas was when it first caught on in the early 20th century.

“The musical itself is a presentation of the Harper Affair — a marijuana-fueled chronicle on the descent of youth into madness,” Graff said. “The Lecturer leads us through this violent, sexual frightening story to reveal the maddening truth.” Graff said he was interested in putting on the show because of its intriguing political nature and “campy humour.” “Around the time, there were ulterior motives for many of the people who were lobbying against the use of marijuana, and hemp was looking to replace newspaper,” Graff said.

The play explores the issues of propaganda and the conveyance of information in a high energy way. Drama student Alyssa LeClair plays the lead role of the Lecturer and she said the mix of both elements is intriguing.

“It’s great to have a break from an emotional piece of theatre or even just a normal funny piece of theatre,” LeClair, ArtSci ’13, said.

Adrienne Miller, who plays Mary Lane, explains that the whole concept of the musical is to show how propaganda is used to cover up issues.

“The lyrics, if you really listen to them, are saying some really awful things,” Miller, ArtSci ’15, said. “But we are dancing to them so it makes it better.”

Queen’s Musical Theatre’s production of Reefer Madness runs from April 4-6 and 9-13 at 8 p.m. and April 6 and 13 at 2 p.m. in the Rotunda Theatre in Theological Hall.

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