A musical treatment of "Reefer Madness," the inadvertently comedic 1936 movie that sought to warn young people of the dangers of marijuana use but decades later became a source of laughter for countless college students, is coming to the Northland Performing Arts Center.
Imagine Productions will perform "Reefer Madness" at 8 p.m. Nov. 9-11 and 3 p.m. Nov. 12 at the theater, 4411 Tamarack Blvd. in Columbus.
Inspired by the original 1936 film, the musical comedy takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the hysteria caused when clean-cut kids fall prey to marijuana, leading them on a downward spiral filled with evil jazz, sex and violence, according to the Imagine Productions website.
The premise of the musical, like the movie, is that the principal of a high school is giving a presentation to parents about the dangers marijuana poses to their children, said the show's director, Douglas Shaffer.
"Obviously it's very over-the-top, as the movie was, although it wasn't meant to be," he said. "And it's very irreverent.
"It's actually poking fun at propaganda in general."
"Reefer Madness" is for mature audiences, Shaffer said. Among the characters are Jesus as a Las Vegas lounge lizard and an ingenue who takes one hit of pot and is transformed into a dominatrix.
The cast of 21 features veterans of past Imagine Productions shows and some newcomers.
Kara Hancock of Columbus' northwest side, who recently moved from Crofton, Maryland, landed the role of Mary Lane, the wholesome All-American girl who is the love interest of the lead character, Jimmy Harper.
"What cracked me up most is that she is only described as 'Jimmy's girlfriend,' " Hancock said.
"She's delightfully stupid."
Samantha Eyler of Columbus' Merion Village portrays Mae Coleman, the "reefer-den mistress."
"It's been a great experience," Eyler said during a rehearsal last week. "This is my favorite musical of all time."
Eyler said she is a big fan of both the film and "Reefer Madness: The Musical," broadcast on Showtime in 2015.
"It definitely plays to the over-the-top humor that they accidentally had in the propaganda film," Eyler said.
"It's become something of a cultural touchstone," said Erik Bobbitt, also of Merion Village who plays the story's villain, Jack Stone. "With camp, you have to keep it honest. If you just play it for laughs, it gets boring."
Tickets are $23 and are available at imagineproductions.org.