If clever satire and catchy music weren’t enough to convince you to see the Mustard and Cheese Drama Society’s newest show, “Reefer Madness,” then maybe a plot line centered around marijuana will do the trick.
For the first time in 20 years, the Mustard and Cheese Drama Society is producing a show entirely run by students. Founded in 1884, the Mustard and Cheese Drama Society is Lehigh’s oldest club and one of the oldest drama societies in the country. For 130 years, it has been a constant source of entertainment, imagination and comedy within the Lehigh community.
While the society was considering possible shows, “Reefer Madness” was an obvious favorite among its members. Made in the 1930s, “Reefer Madness” was originally a propaganda film warning Americans about the dangerous effects of marijuana. Now widely recognized as one of the worst films of its generation, “Reefer Madness” was resurrected in the 1970s and has been a cult classic ever since.
The script was eventually adapted into a musical satire, premiering in Los Angeles in 1998. It opened off-Broadway in 2001, and since then, the show has traveled internationally to Canada, Australia and London. The musical even hit the big screen in 2005, starring actors Kristen Bell and Alan Cumming.
“Reefer Madness” follows the downfall of Jimmy Harper from a wholesome boy in love to a degenerate drug addict. After his first hit of marijuana, the most ridiculous of chaos ensues — there is an orgy, cannibalism and murder. There are also appearances from Jesus, Uncle Sam and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Adrienne Chodnowsky, ’17, the show’s assistant costume designer and a member of its ensemble, admits that although it is a very fun show, “Reefer Madness” proved to be a formidable show to produce.
“We chose this show because we thought it would be fun and a great experience,” she said. “This was actually the hardest show we considered, but we were all up for the challenge, and thankfully, it’s lived up to all of our expectations.”
Emma Gifford, ’15, the president of the Mustard and Cheese Drama Society and the show’s director, agreed with Chodnowsky.
“It’s taken a lot of time and a lot of effort, but above all, it’s been a lot of fun,” Gifford said.
In addition to being an upbeat and unpredictable ride, “Reefer Madness” is very relevant to America’s current trend of legalizing marijuana. Alexander Stanislawski, ’15, who plays the role of Jesus Christ in the production, said the recent legalization of marijuana in many states contributes to the show’s hilarity.
“The show is based on a propaganda film made to warn the public of how detrimental marijuana can be to one’s health, and meanwhile, it’s being legalized all over the country,” Stanislawski said. “The irony is what makes it so funny.”
Stanislawski’s character appears to Jimmy Harper in the hope of saving him from the villainous drug.
“Reefer Madness” made its debut performance in the Black Box Theater at Zoellner Arts Center on Thursday and will be running until Sunday afternoon. Tickets cost $8 for Lehigh students and $10 for all other attendees.
“Since the show is entirely student-run, it’s such a rewarding experience to see all of my fellow classmates putting it together,” Chodnowsky said. “Our director is a senior at Lehigh, and we have cast and crew of all ages, from graduate students to freshmen.”
In a show produced and performed by students, Chodnowsky admits that the Mustard and Cheese Drama Society is lucky to be composed of such enthusiastic members. They arrive to every rehearsal determined to make “Reefer Madness” a show that they can all be proud to perform in front of family, friends and fellow students.
“The cast and crew have been amazing to work with,” Chodnowsky said. “They’re such a dedicated and passionate group of individuals. Not once along the way has it felt like a chore to make this show. Every rehearsal has been a joy. It’s really an honor to be a part of this experience.”
Production for “Reefer Madness” commenced in early September with a cast and crew comprised of nearly 50 students. Gifford said the show has been a crazy ride, albeit a rewarding one, with many friendships formed along the way. Over the past several months, the cast has become a close-knit group, which undoubtedly translates onto the stage.
“We’re such a fun group, and I think audiences will recognize that,” Chodnowsky said. “It’s really the cast and crew who make the show so special.”
As for the society’s president, Gifford said she was excited to see all the hard work the cast and crew put into the show pay off during its opening weekend. She hoped audiences would enjoy the production.
“The show is hilarious, so I hope that audiences enjoy themselves and have a good laugh during this stressful last week of classes,” she said.