Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rising Action: Reefer Madness (4 reviews)

Rising Action Theatre opened its production of Reefer Madness on March 11, 2010.
The hit madcap 30's musical based on the anti-marijuana propaganda movie (now a cult film) of 1936!
Winner of 3 Best Musical Awards: The LA Ovation Award, Backstage West Garland Award, LA Drama Crtics Award for Best New Musical!
Kevin Coughlin directed a cast that included Conor Walton, Chelsea Greenberg, Bill Dobbins, Larry Buzzeo, Lindsey Forgey, Nicole, Niefeld, and Joel S. Johnson.

The Palm Beach Post has declined to review this production.*

Brandon K. Thorp reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times, giving this shoestring production more reviews than Miss Saigon at Actors' Playhouse (which Brandon has stated he won't review):
The original Reefer Madness served as an antipot propaganda flick, produced in 1936 by moralists. It's a sobering flick, considering that the forces of disinformation are still at it. Reefer Madness  the musical, meanwhile, now enjoying a lovingly over-the-top production at Wilton Manors' Rising Action Theatre, is really, really funny.
...this Reefer Madness is a tightly wrapped horror show that covers up scene after scene of truly frightening imagery with a bright gloss of good humor.
Dobbins' face is masterfully contorted — it seems made entirely of angry, vibrating triangles, and his eyebrows writhe around like angry caterpillars.
Walton's portrayal is pure postcard America... so square that you want to throw a joint onstage to hasten his inevitable decline.
...his great love is Mary Lane — a pipsqueak emanation of American girlhood, played with coltish glee by the lovely Chelsa Greenberg.
...this production... has the strongest aesthetic sense of any I've seen at Rising Action. The set is right out of Dr. Caligari, full of unnatural angles and mean green and purple lights.
Each of the singers individually has the vocal power to overcome the prerecorded music coming out of the P.A., but they don't have the power to overcome one another: The ensemble numbers are mixed terribly for want of any mixing at all.
The historically uneven theater doesn't have much money, and even in this show, you get the sense that the production values are only a level or two above community theater. But a sense of fun or danger or excitement can compensate for a lot, and Rising Action's got it like no one else.
Mario Betto reviewed for the Miami Theatre Examiner:
Bill Dobbins brilliantly plays the authoritative lecturer (the narrator) and eases into a variety of cameo characters... Lindsey Forgey in the role of Sally delivers a memorable performance and shines in the number Jimmy Takes A Hit.  Conor Walton... is perfect for the role. (his) performance as the innocent teen turned stoner is entertaining and vocally solid in numbers Romeo & Juliet and Jimmy Takes A Hit. Chelsea Greenburg who plays the naive Mary turned bad girl delivers a lovely rendition of Lonely Pew and is paired well with Walton.
The company is well directed by Kevin Coughlin who keeps the storyline flowing and focused.  The company frequently missteps Dave Campbell's clever choreography, yet delivers in the opening number Reefer Madness and The Orgy. Linda Matrone's lighting design compliments the show's gamut of emotions while the pre-recorded sound designed by David Hart seemed muffled at times.
John LaRiviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway:
This production of Reefer Madness is pretty tightly staged, and contains some clever use of choreography and costuming. The actors certainly cast aside all inhibitions for "The Orgy" and its explicit nature. The ensemble performance is solid and even in both dancing and singing.
Bill Dobbins, who plays the Lecturer, does a wonderful job maintaining the commanding voice and persona of this stern, Rod Steiger-esque character... Larry Buzzeo has a singing voice that is a bit ragged around the edges, but he turns in a nice performance as Jesus in "Listen To Jesus, Jimmy." Nicole Niefeld as the battered looking Mae is best in the song "The Stuff" and in the closing scene with a well-placed hoe. Conor Walton, though overly presentational, is perfectly cast as the squeaky-clean Jimmy. He is well matched with Chelsa Greenberg as the pert Mary Lane. She oozes purity from every pore, right up until her first puff of cannabis...
Eileen Spiegler reviewed for the Miami Herald:
The production at Fort Lauderdale's Rising Action Theatre takes it a little, uh, higher, gleefully embracing every caricature and building to a hilarious chaos.
Coughlin and his cast are spot-on with the silliness.
It's all in fun, and worth shedding your inhibitions for an enjoyable night of theater.
Spiegler still doesn't write much of a review, but at least she did mention the specific production.

Reefer Madness plays at Rising Action Theatre through April 11, 2010.

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