Film and TV

Reefer Madness in Colorado Springs: From Mary Poppins to Mary Jane

Marijuana mania has been sweeping through Denver for some time, but only Colorado Springs has descended into Reefer Madness.

Debuting over the weekend at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Reefer Madness parodies the 1936 film of the same name. Of course, due to the flick's poor production values and campy nature, anyone familiar with the original might’ve thought the it was a parody to begin with.

“When you watch that propaganda film, it’s just so funny and ripe to be turned into something like this,” says Nathan Halvorson, the show's director and choreographer.

Complete with a singing Jesus, Lucifer's goat dick and plenty more high-brow humor, the play is an equal-opportunity offender and a timely, interesting choice at the same time, Halverson believes.

The original Reefer Madness (also called Tell your Children and Doped Youth) revolves around some innocent teenagers in the 1930s who fall prey to the “drug-crazed abandon” that is marijuana. After getting tricked or pressured into smoking it by a violent weed-pushing couple, the teens engage in dangerous, psychotic and lustful behavior, ultimately sending them in a downward spiral.

NORML founder Keith Stroup bought a print of the film and began showing it at pro-pot festivals. The film’s blatant disregard for facts and ridiculous story line turned it into a cult classic among potheads and movie buffs alike — making it a natural for a Colorado theater.

“It’s definitely a farce, and I don’t know if marijuana is necessarily important in the show,” says Andrew Wilkes, the actor portraying Jimmy Harper. “But it plays with the iconography that put marijuana in the place that it is now, and now that it's starting to change, the play’s even more relevant.”

Halvorson hopes the show will bring new faces into the theater while showing his usual attendees something fresh.

“There have been a lot of single-ticket buyers for this particular show, many of whom have never stepped foot in here before,” he says. “Four weeks ago, we were showing Mary Poppins.”

Although over 25 joints are smoked onstage throughout the show, Wilkes insists they're an herbal mixture that don't get any of the actors stoned — but that doesn't mean you can't partake in your own madness before the show starts.

"You're more than welcome to visit your vehicles during intermission and then come back," Halvorson jokes.

The original musical parody of Reefer Madness was written by Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney and premiered in 1998, with a movie adaptation coming out seven years later. Halvorson says the play at the Fine Arts Center is a mixture of both scripts.

Reefer Madness will be playing on Thursday through Sunday until March 1, and tickets start at $20. Due to violence and minor vulgarities, bringing children under 16 is not recommended.

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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for
Contact: Thomas Mitchell

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