With this wild musical spoof, Doctuh Mistuh delivers a bigger buzz than its Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
Reviewed by Jillian Owens, Fri., June 28, 2013
Reefer MadnessSpider House Ballroom, 2906 Fruth, 800/838-3006
Through June 30
Running time: 1 hr., 45 min.
Michael McKelvey and his gang of top-notch musical theatre performers still haven't come down from the success of last summer's Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, but perhaps the armload of B. Iden Payne and Austin Critics Table awards helped Doctuh Mistuh Productions get even higher this year with a buzzing production of Reefer Madness. A boisterous musical based on a Thirties propaganda flick, Madness plops the audience down in a high school auditorium, where a stern lecturer (the fantastic Jose Villarreal) presents the "True Story of How Marihuana Destroyed the Lives of Two Innocent, Young Souls."
With one eyebrow raised, Villarreal subtly carries the story as he pops up in unexpected places throughout the show: He is the milkshake man at the high school hangout, young Jimmy Harper's dowdy mother, and even a convivial FDR. Joey Banks and Sarah Marie Curry are charming and competent as bobby-socked lovebirds Jimmy and Mary, but under McKelvey's direction, they occasionally become caricatures of caricatures. There's something a little too silly about their performances, as when Jimmy mercilessly beats up a stuffed puppy, but both actors come into full form toward the end of the show. Curry shines particularly brightly once Mary Lane takes a toke of tease stick and dons her bad-girl panties.
Nathan Brockett is outstanding as reefer den honcho Jack. He finds talented and willing accomplices in Libby Dees-Detling, Kristi Brawner, and Chase Brewer as fellow pot fiends Mae, Sally, and Ralph. Other hits in the energetic ensemble include Paul Koudouris as a hammy Jesus and David Ponton as an orgiastic goatman (complete with dildo staff). The cast is solid, with tightly rolled vocals, courtesy of McKelvey's legendary musical direction, and smooth moves from budding choreographers Rose Mitchell, Haley Smith Montgomery, and Madison Piner.
To be blunt, Reefer Madness tops Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson simply because the Spider House Ballroom is a much better venue for a musical than the Blue Theatre. A round of applause to sound designer Joel Mercado-See for skillfully amplifying the "hardest working band in the land," helmed by Kyle Sigrest on the keys. The only downside of the space is that it's not set up like a theatre, but with a bar right next door, the audience doesn't mind. So the seats aren't tiered, so the set is minimal, so the costume-and-props budget wasn't huge, so what? Reefer Madness might be a one-way ticket to hell, but it sure is a fun way to go.
Reefer Madness, Austin theatre, Doctuh Mistuh Productions, Michael McKelvey, Jose Villarreal, Joey Banks, Sarah Marie Curry, Libby Dees-Detling, Kristi Brawner, Chase Brewer, Paul Koudouris, David Ponton