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Factory Edge Theatre Works Reefer Madness

By • Jun 22nd, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Reefer Madness
Factory Edge Theatre Works
Factory Edge Theatre Works, Baltimore, MD
Through July 10th
2:20 with one intermission
$20/$15 Senior, Military, Student
Reviewed June 18th, 2011

Tell your children: Although they can’t come and see this production filled with drugs, sexual situations, and partial (or, by wardrobe malfunction, full) nudity, it is absolute must-see riot for grown-ups. Reefer Madness is a satirical, musical-version of the 1930’s propaganda film that was created to show young people and their parents all of the horrific things that happen as a result of marijuana use. The musical is neither pro- nor anti- drug use, but it is firmly anti-propaganda. Although there were technical issues and a few other missteps, the good far outweighed the bad, and it is just a downright hilarious show that was brought to life by a dynamic team of performers.

Fans of the cult hit should not waste energy comparing the production to the film. Once you accept that this is a community production with its own interpretation, it is easy to become engrossed in the show. People who have never seen the show will be delighted by the clever script and over-the-top characters.

The absolute standout in this cast was Alex Cecchetti (Ralph). He had a real ease on stage, an incredible tenor, and impeccable comedic timing and delivery. Brian Meise (Jimmy Harper) was another excellent performance. He also had a powerful tenor, and his facial expressions were some of the strongest comic pieces of the show. Another highlight was Lyle Saunders (Jesus). He had the most incredible, warm energy that just made you feel at-ease when he smiled. On top of that, he had a beautiful voice. Ann Pallanck (Sally’s Baby) was not only great in that role, she really stood out in a positive way in many scenes. Her energy and commitment was unparalleled. Also great was Biz Kopp (Placard Girl). Her facial expression, without any words, as she brought across the cards, communicated volumes.

Sarah Goldstein (Mae) came across a little lackluster in the first act, but found her stride and really nailed, both vocally and in execution, the reprise of “The Stuff.” Hayley Brown (Mary Lane) did not always connect with the audience, but she had an incredible voice and was able to deliver comedic material with a natural honesty. She especially shined in “Lonely Pew.” Although she had a very unconventional look for the role and such a different take on the character that took a little bit to get used to, Ricki Fluhr (Sally) was able to make her interpretation of the role sexy, interesting, and funny.

As the Lecturer, Mike Ware easily had the most difficult acting roles, requiring portrayal of several characters, and had some really good moments but lacked a little polish in his performance. When he was discussing what some people do with brownies, his timing and deadpan delivery had the audience in stitches. He also created great characters in the form of Jimmy’s mother and FDR. However, at other times, he did not enunciate clearly and seemed a little uncertain of his next lines.

Brian Mellen (Jack) made the error of attempting to mimic the iconic performance of Steven Webber and unfortunately fell short. He had a nice voice and good stage presence but would have been better served in trying to make the role his own. Since he was also the director, it is likely that his performance was the weakest simply because he could not watch himself and provide himself with the feedback necessary to really find the character. Mellen was much stronger, in this production, in the role of director than performer. His cast worked well as ensemble, the blocking was solid and interesting, and there were many well-designed and original comedic bits throughout.

The ensemble had a lot of great energy, but, besides the two mentioned above, there were no real standouts. One major downfall of the ensemble was that they were not dancers. For the most part, Choreographer Sara Ford Gorman was able to keep things simple but still interesting. Between this well-designed choreography and the energy of the cast, the musical numbers were still kept alive. The only place where this really hurt the show was in the number “Down at the Ole Five and Dime.” The song was about dancing, so when the dancing was too simple to be impressive but still too hard for the cast to execute with precision, it was really the only serious low point in the show.

The technical aspects of the show were also a sore spot. The costumes were a real hodge-podge in which some were excellent, perfect for the characters and period, and intricate in details, while others were sloppy, unflattering, and/or inconsistent with the time period. Hair and Make-up were especially weak. Characters wore piercings, modern hairstyles, and had visible tattoos that were jarringly anachronistic. The lights were under-rehearsed and overall sloppy. Characters were often in shadow. The biggest disappoint was the sound. The band almost always washed out the soloist due to the balance. Anyone sitting further back than the front row was likely unable to hear some of the singers at all. This also made it hard to understand what they were saying, and people that do not know all of the lyrics to the show are likely to miss the humor and wit in the lyrics. The set was simple and well-designed for changing locations quickly, but was overall forgettable. It really neither added to or detracted from the production.

Hopefully, some of these technical aspects will be better worked out by the second weekend. Just in case, you should sit as close to the front as possible to be sure to hear everything in this delightful production.

Director’s Note

Directing a musicl with a specific theme and a current issue is always an exciting and difficult challenge. Reefer Madness is certinaly no exception. The timing is difficult enough, but then adding the many different styles of dance and music to the mix, this musical is one of the most complicated musicals I have ever worked on in any aspect.

This is a challenge the cast and crew has not taken lightly. They have dedicated and invested themselves to reaching the show’s fullest potential.

I am very proud of each and every person involved in this production. They have sacrificed an untold number of hours to create this evening’s production. It has truly been a labor of love and tremendous learning experience for me. I want to thank the cast, crew and anyone who has touched the project. Thank you for taking such care adn committing so deeply to the production.

-Director, Brian Mellen

Cast

  • Lecturer: Mike Ware
  • Jimmy Harper: Brian Meise
  • Mary Lane: Hayley Brown
  • Mae: Sarah Goldstein
  • Jack: Brian Mellen
  • Sally: Ricki Fluhr
  • Ralph: Alex Cecchetti
  • Placard Girl: Biz Kopp
  • Sally’s Baby: Ann Pallanck
  • Jesus: Lyle Saunders
  • Ensemble: Tegan Williams, Caitlin Bouxsein, Shaun Riley, Jenny Hasselbusch, & Peter Blaine

Production Team

  • Director: Brian Mellen
  • Executive Producer: Ben Greene
  • Producer: Biz Kopp
  • Stage Manager: Amy Haynes
  • Artistic Director: Lance Bankerd
  • Costume Design: Marie Bankerd
  • Choreography: Sara Ford Gorman
  • Dance Captain: Tegan Williams
  • Lighting and Sound: Brad Ranno & Melissa Martinez
  • Make-up: Chenoa Lynn

Band

  • Conduction/Keyboard: Stacey Antoine
  • Reeds: Bobby Lapinski
  • Guitar: Katie Baseman
  • Bass: Gordon Green
  • Drums: Joe Pipkin

Disclaimer: Factory Edge Theatre Works provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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has been involved in theatre in the state of Maryland and DC for most of her life. She has acted, directed, choreographed, stage managed, and held a million other odd jobs. She has a B.S. in English from Towson University, and is currently pursuing her Master's Degree to become a Reading Specialist. She is a Maryland State Certified English, Theatre, Elementary, and Mathematics Educator. After teaching English and Drama for many years, she now teaches 6th grade Language Arts at Magnolia Middle School in Harford County, Maryland. She wrote the curriculum currently used in Prince George’s County Public Schools for Drama I and Drama II. She now writes and directs plays and musicals for use in church.

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