Propaganda Parody

TheaterWednesday, September 5

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Writing partners Dan Studney and Kevin Murphy were on a road trip listening to Frank Zappa's 1979 rock opera, Joe's Garage, when they came up with the idea. What if they took Zappa's concept — a tongue-in-cheek musical with a pseudo-earnest narrator — and applied it to Reefer Madness? The 1936 cult-classic propaganda flick exaggerated the effects of marijuana to such an extreme as to be laughable, so adapting it into a satire seemed only natural. The ensuing Reefer Madness! musical debuted in Los Angeles in 1998, was produced as a Showtime film in 1995 and kicks off M.A.D. Theatre's 2007-08 season beginning tonight. The play plot is similar to that of the film: Clean-cut high school kids fall prey to the dark underworld of marijuana and are exposed to jazz music, sexual deviance and uncontrollable violence. Narrator, authority figure and defender of morality The Lecturer is a constant presence throughout the musical, his stern recounting of events and warnings punctuated by Placard Girl's moral-affirming signs. With songs like "Jimmy Takes a Hit" and "The Orgy," and hallucinations of Jesus Christ giving dire warnings of eternal damnation, Tom Jones-style and with a chorus of showgirl angels, Reefer Madness! is, according to director Stephen Riordan, neither pro-drug nor anti-drug, but a satire on propaganda and the sensationalist tone of the film. Not appropriate for children but definitely worth a look-see for the rest of us. 8 p.m. Wed.-Sat., Sept. 5-8 and 26-29, and 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., Sept. 14-15, The Ritz Theatre, 1503 E. Seventh Ave., Ybor City, $18 in advance/$20 at the door, 813-786-6291, madtheatre.com.

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