Tuesday October 17th 2017

“Reefer Madness-the Musical”

Since Circle Theatre made its move to the new facility in Oak Park, they have been adjusting to the new stage and how to use it to full advantage. The only adjustment they have failed to make is getting their sound system to allow the audience to hear just how good they have become. Since the move, I have been wowed by the clever musicals they have chosen and must say, I was swept away by their current production, “Reefer Madness- the Musical” , based on the cult movie of the 1930’s. The book and lyrics by Kevin Murphy and music by Dan Studney, makes one wonder why this piece has not been done in our area of late ( in fact, I don’t recall it being around in years).This is a wild and wooly show that takes the “over-the-top” film to new heights and pushes it even further as innocent Jimmy ( an amazingly energetic performance by newcomer Ryan Stajmiger, who resembles a young Matthew Broderick.Remember this name as it is one I am sure will be on many a stagebill in the future) is lured into the dangerous world of Marijuana. He finds this to be a wild world, filled with insanity, sex, laughter, hunger ( for food and sex) and total recklessness.

If you enjoy “Camp”- this is it! Personified!Director Matthew Gunnels has put together one of the best cast shows Circle has ever assembled and uses the stage to perfection . Peter O’Neill’s set, multi-leveled with many doors and a unique platform has created the perfect set for a farce like this and the choreography by Brigitte Ditmars is sensational ( of the quality we are used to seeing on the larger stages in town). Musical direction by Jon Landvick and his four musicians is powerful and yet never overbearing, so we the audience can hear the hysterical lyrics. John Nasca’s costumes are probably one of the highlights of the visual appearance of the show and the puppets by Brian Powers are adorable.

This is a fast paced two hour show that depends on a strong cast to work and as I said earlier, this is one of the best cast shows that this company has ever put on their stage- In addition to Stajmiger, the “lecturer” , who is also the narrator and takes on many other roles, the incredible Jason Grimm ( who you can see is a former Second City Alum from his great comic timing),the adorable Landree Fleming ( another newcomer) as Mary Lane, Jimmy’s high school girlfriend,  the very funny Tommy Bullington as Ralph, Liz Bollar as Mae, Eric Lindahl as Jack, the gangster type who lure Jimmy into his fold, but who also steals a few scenes as Jesus and the other newcomer,  Elissa Newcorn as Sally, the sex kitten whose function is to keep Jimmy happy. Her voice rings out like a bell ( another name to remember).


While these performers are the keys to the story line, the craziness, cleverness and comic touches would never work without a strong ensemble, and this show has just that:Bobby Arnold, Julia Beck, Kyle Kuhlman,Melody Latham, Joshua A Peterson, Gina Sparacino,Neil Stratman and Stephanie Wohar, who also comes into many scenes carrying placards ( as one would see in the old fights, roound numbers, but in this case, blurbs about things that marijuana makes you do)- an all star ensemble with some great bodies and wonderful dancers.

This is two hours ( with one intermission) of laugh after laugh, and loads of clever segments including Grimm doing F.D.R. ( President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for you youngsters) spoofing “Annie” and taking part in a major dance number form his wheel chair by having other dancers move his legs- very clever choreography and direction! There is a lot of material in this play that is really not suitable for youngster and a little bit of nudity( but not enough to bother anyone as what you see can be seen on most beaches) as well as a little profanity and some strobe lighting. I can guarantee, no matter what type of day you have had, this production will “take you away” like a brownie from your college days. You remember!

“Reefer Madness-the Musical” is scheduled to run through August 26th  I hope they can hold this one over so more people can see this very special entertainment piece) with performances as follows:

Fridays and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets range from $26-$30 ( $2.00 off for students and seniors on Saturday and Sunday) and can be purchased by calling the box office at 708-660-9540 or online at www.circle-theatre.org

Circle Theatre is located at 1010 Madison Street ( a few blocks East of Harlem Avenue) in Oak Park and there is plenty of street parking in the area. If you have never been to this theater, now is the perfect time!

To learn more about this show, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to review round-up and click on “Reefer Madness-the Musical”

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