In the 2011 Theatre in Review article I wrote with Ana Miranda, I said “bring back musicals!” – Reefer Madness does that with a bang! When you see Amanda Neufeld’s name in the directing credits, you know it’s going to be a fantastic musical. Neufeld directed Hair in Fringe 2010 (the musical that made me fall in love with theatre), as well as Bare in last year’s Fringe. Also on the bill is Matthew Lindholm – a star in both of those productions – and one of my favorite actors in Edmonton. Combine these two with 5 other excellent cast members, a great band, and a modern and satirical twist on the 1936 propaganda film by the same name, and you’ve got the makings of another Fringe hit!
The basic premise? Something evil has come to town… it’s name? Marijuana. It’s purpose? To turn your children into psychotic, incestuous, baby-selling, murderous fiends. Please, allow the cast to provide a short (1 hour, 40 minutes) demonstration.
Every member of the cast does a fantastic job – playing up to three characters during the course of the play. The versatility of the actors is really impressive. Although the play has 7 cast members, it feels like a lot more – the quick costume and mannerism changes have each cast member playing several supporting roles, in addition to their main roles.
In particular, I was impressed by Jeff Rivet (who also performed in Bare last year) – when he first entered the stage as the very geeky, slightly awkward, good ol’ American boy, Jimmy Harper, I thought there would be no way his character would turn into a “reefer fiend”. Boy, was I wrong. Although the transition was anything but smooth for the character, Rivet pulled off every state of Jeff’s character as he became more and more addicted. The contrast between “good boy Jimmy” and “bad boy Jimmy” was incredibly well-done by Rivet – never feeling forced, or even as though he was not completely either “good” or “bad” – which, of course, is what the producers of the original propaganda film would have wanted.
Of course, in a review of this caliber of a musical, I want to go on and on about the talents of the actors, but you’re busy Fringing, you don’t have time for that! For me, some of the best moments of the show were:
- Matthew Lindholm’s three personas stole the show for me. From the strict lecturer, to sleezy Jack Stone, to well… Jesus (no adjective needed), Lindholm once again proved why he belongs on stage.
- The creepiest cast member of all had to have been Kyle Thulien – whether off in a corner by himself or in centre stage, Thulien portrays someone who’s “burnt out” with his every move.
- I need to see more from Erika Noot – just like Rivet, her switch between “good Mary Lane” and “bad Mary Lane” was so well done, it left me wanting to see what she can do with other roles.
- Though small in stature, Nevada Collins (who also played in Bare) has an incredible voice.
- The morals of this play – which, apparently need to be written out and carried across the stage by Amanda Sorge, dressed as a flag girl, are both enlightening to the uninformed, or hilarious to the rest.
See it if: you’re in Edmonton. Or even if you’re not. Just get to it.
Tickets are $12.50. Reefer Madness runs for 1 hour and 40 minutes. Shows run every day through to August 26. Reefer Madness’ schedule can be found on the Fringe Theatre Adventures website or YEGLive.ca.
- Jenna Marynowski