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University of Iowa News Release


Nov. 3, 2009

University Theatres Mainstage season presents 'Reefer Madness: The Musical'

"Reefer Madness: The Musical," based on the over-the-top 1936 "educational" film that became a cult classic, will continue the University Theatres Mainstage season at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13, in E.C. Mabie Theatre of the University of Iowa Theatre Building.

Additional performances of the production, directed by third-year Master of Fine Arts directing student Brandon Bruce, will be presented at 8 p.m. Nov. 14 and 17-20, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15.

From writers of "Weird Science," "The Simpsons," "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" and "Desperate Housewives" --  music by Dan Studney and lyrics by Kevin Murphy -- this raucous musical comedy takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the hysteria caused when clean-cut kids fall prey to marijuana, leading them on a hysterical downward spiral filled with evil jazz music, sex and violence.

The musical numbers range from big Broadway-style showstoppers to swing tunes like "Down at the Ol' Five and Dime" and the Vegas-style "Listen to Jesus, Jimmy," featuring J.C. Himself leading a chorus of showgirl angels. It also contains sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll and is intended for mature audiences only.

In the 1936 film, initially funded and produced by an earnest church group as a message to parents about the addictive and soul-destroying nature of a new drug menace called marijuana, two upstanding teenage boys become hopelessly addicted to the drug after being seduced by a depraved drug peddler. One toke of the tea-stick turns them from Jekyll to Hyde, creating uncontrollably violent and lustful monsters. "Reefer Madness, The Musical" adds the theatrical convention of a lecturer who has gathered local parents in a high school auditorium to present a play about the imminent danger of "the real public enemy Number One."

The play follows teen Jimmy Harper who meets dope peddler Jack at the neighborhood Five and Dime and is lured away to the local reefer den and soon forgets about his innocent sweetheart, Mary Lane. Watch how young Jimmy turns from All-American teen to hallucinatory pot fiend after only one puff of the evil Killer Demon Weed. Witness the consequences as he is sucked into a world of orgies and cannibalism. The lecturer leads the audience through the Harper Affair, a tale of deceit, violence, lust and murder, all caused by that unspeakable scourge, marijuana.

"Reefer Madness" is not pro-marijuana, but is IS anti-propaganda. Kevin Murphy commented, "Scare films of the '30s were real clumsy, obvious propaganda. They played on racism, on fear of the unknown and took touchstones that were important to Americans like teenagers and the (ideal) concept of America. They took villains like communists, blacks, Mexicans, drug pushers and gangsters, and it was like a big Halloween party on the screen."

Become a fan of the production and observe its development at

Other artistic contributors to the production include music director Benjamin Bentler, choreographer Annett Schaedlich-Hendrix, scenic designer Scott Schoonover, costume designer Loyce Arthur, lighting designer Paul Collins, sound designer Alex Ruhlin, and dramaturgs Kate Stopa and Molly Schintler.

Tickets for "Reefer Madness: The Musical" are $17 (seniors citizen $12, youth $10; and UI students $5 with a valid UI ID), and are available in advance from the Hancher box office in the Old Capitol Town Center.

For tickets, call 319-335-1160; toll-free 1-800-HANCHER; on-line People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial 319-335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

Any remaining tickets for each performance will be available for sale at the door one hour before show time at the theatre building box office.

The department of theatre arts is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

UI arts events are searchable on the UI Master Calendar: For additional arts information, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to and click the link "Join or Leave ACR News," then follow the instructions.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Brandon Bruce, Winston Barclay, UI News Services, 319-384-0073,