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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Seacoast Repertory Theatre 'Reefer Madness: The Musical' Rates 4.20 out of 5 Stars

The 2:00 p.m. all-singing all-dancing matinee performance of "Reefer Madness: The Musical" by the Seacoast Repertory Theatre in Portsmouth, NH ending at approximately 4:20 is very apt considering the subject matter of this parody of the unintentionally hilarious 1930s propaganda film that provides the source material for this Emmy-winning production by "Desperate Housewives" producer/writer Kevin Murphy.

"Reefer" runs through July 24, 2016 and overlaps with companion production "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" beginning on July 15, 2016. The awesomeness of Seacoast Rep. reaches its limit in planning searches for contraband such as toilet paper, playing cards, and rice at "Rocky" performances. Executive Director Kathleen Cavalaro explains that this mid-sized theater that can lacks the resources to clean large quantities of debris in the interim between a "Rocky" performance ending and the Rep. theater camp for kids getting their rehearsal time on stage.

It is worth noting as well that Rep. deserves praise for staging these productions in an era in which most regional theaters are timidly limiting their fare to "safer" plays, such as "Annie" and "The Sound of Music." The well-validated logic is that such well-known and popular productions almost certainly will fill the theater if only because kids will drag their entourages to performances. Rep. does sprinkle in some favorites but proves that focusing on art can provide adequate commerce to keep the doors open.

Rep. further embraces the creative side of theater in having a "stoner" section in which "Reefer" audience members can get into the spirit of the show. On a related note, a "Jesus no" look deters becoming part of a bit in which Christ goes into the audience to do a placing of hands on a leper.

"Reefer" focuses on the corruption of 16 year-old scholar/star athlete/model citizen Jimmy Harper. New Hampshire native/soon-to-be senior in the University of New Hampshire theater program Taylor Morrow does equally well portraying the All-American boy that we meet early on and the frantic addict that he becomes on taking one hit off a joint after being lured into a reefer den. He shines best in performing "Mary Jane/Mary Lane," which is the winner of the aforementioned Emmy. This tune  also is the most memorable in the production.

The award for best staged number goes to the early song-and-dance spectacular "Romeo and Juliet." This has the ensemble perform dressed as Julius Caesar, a witch from the Scottish play, and several other Shakespearen characters. This extravagnza comes complete with dueling chorus boys.

The ensemble (as well as artistic director Miles Burns) deserves further kudos for their incredible quick costume changes. They go from drugged-out zombies, to the aforementioned classic literary figures, to stoned orgy attendees, etc within a matter of minutes throughout most of the production. Nineteen year-old Victor Carillo Tracey is a clear standout, who rocks whether he is a Christian guitar player or astronaut. Fans of off-Broadway that is closer than 300 miles from Time Square should look for that name in their Playbills during the next few years. For his part. Tracey may want to take hints from "All About Eve."

The aforementioned troupers and their cast mates and the comedy portion of "Reefer" deliver the hoped-for entertainment that is well worth the price of admission in every sense of the word. Unfortunately, most of the music falls short. It simply does not stick and has large quantities of forced rhymes. An example of this is the lyric "You used to be the brains/now their carpet stains." (Of course, "Rocky" does FAR better in the music department; further, audiences of that one will be treated to Morrow in skin-tight gold lame shorts.)

The only way to wrap all this up is to admit to once finding the kitchen witch doll on a cabinet at the home of a friend's parents hysterical and to share that that friend had paid $40 for a sandwich bag half full of oregano roughly nine months earlier.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Reefer" is encouraged to either email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy,