Continuing its tradition of presenting the slightly off-beat, Awkward Stage returns to the CBC Studio 700 stage with a production of the musical satire Reefer Madness.
[pullquote]“It is not something I do, or that Awkward would pretend to condone, but we understand that there is a value in actually challenging propaganda and opening the dialogue and that is what we really liked about Reefer Madness” – Andy Toth[/pullquote]“Musical theatre itself is either really rich or really quirky and when you add music you can bypass many of the narrative devices if it was text alone,” says Awkward Stage mentor Andy Toth of the group’s choices that have included the equally quirky musicals Zanna, Don’t, Dracula: The Musical? and Bunked! in recent years. Besides, he says, knowing the company’s audience base makes it a lot easier to sell a quirky musical comedy than a musical drama.
Based on the 1936 film of the same name, Reefer Madness may take a tongue-in-cheek look at the hysteria caused when clean-cut kids fall prey to marijuana, but with the discussion in Canada and elsewhere around marijuana use right now, it is a hot button show that Toth and Awkward’s young team hopes will add to the dialogue.
“It is not something I do, or that Awkward would pretend to condone, but we understand that there is a value in actually challenging propaganda and opening the dialogue and that is what we really liked about Reefer Madness,” says Toth.
It was also the show with the strongest vision when they put out the call for show proposals last year. “Director Tiffany Anderson was very passionate about this show and she had such a strong vision as to what she wanted to do with it,” he says.
Edgy and quirky doesn’t mean that the team takes the process of creating theatre any less seriously though, a process that goes well beyond any potentially controversial subject matter.
“There are young theatre professionals who are ready, but they might not have the confidence or skillset to get lead roles right out of school,” explains Toth. “It is vital for us to help them bridge that gap so they can build their resumes and give them a crack at lead roles that they might not otherwise get.”
As one of four mentors that also includes Corwin Ferguson, Sandra Herd and Kevin Michael Cripps, Toth says the quartet take their responsibilities to heart, with a goal to providing their young protégés with the tools they need to do their jobs.
“We’re not in the room with them rehearsing, but we take the mentorship process very seriously to help ensure they have everything they need to either win or lose,” he says.
Reefer Madness is directed by Tiffany Anderson, with choregraphy by Lena Dabrusin and musical direction by Amelia Pipher. The show is stage managed by Jasmin Sandhu and its technical director is Corwin Ferguson. The show features Victor Hunter, Max Wallace, Emily Henney, Chris Lam, Claire Rice, Ranae Miller and Ben Bilodeau with an ensemble of Lindsay Corbett, Kaitie Allinger and Steffanie Davis.
Reefer Madness plays at CBC Studio 700 from May 15-18. Visit https://awkwardstageproductions.com for tickets and information. It contains adult humor, religious parody, and drug use, as well as suggested violence and sexual explicitness that may not be appropriate for younger audiences.