Showtime's got Reefer Madness
January 31 2004 1:00 AM ET
Showtime is lighting up Reefer Madness, the off-Broadway musical satirizing the evils of marijuana, as an original film. Reefer will reunite the creative team behind the stage version--writers Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney and director Andy Fickman--that won numerous awards and had an extended run at the Hudson Backstage Theater in Los Angeles in 2000. Acknowledging that producing a musical comedy is an unusual choice, out Showtime entertainment president Roger Greenblatt said the network has diverse ambitions for its original films. "I want people to see that we are open to doing all kinds of different things," he said.
Reefer is a parody of the 1936 film that offered an overblown estimation of the dangers of marijuana usage. Future generations of college students came to enjoy the film for its unintentional comedic effect. The stage version made light of the hysteria-whipping Reefer by imagining marijuana as a gateway to ghastly consequences like animal cruelty and cannibalism. Murphy acknowledged that premium cable is the only place the racy Reefer could run without compromising the content. "We don't have the restrictions on where we can go for humor that we would have had on broadcast television," he said. Added out coauthor Studney, "It never leaves the realm of good rock musical theater."
Fickman said he always envisioned the production as a musical movie. "From the very first time Kevin and Dan gave me the script, it was impossible for me not to think Rocky Horror [Picture Show] or Little Shop of Horrors," he said. The addition of an orchestra and the elimination of a few songs is expected for the Showtime version of Reefer, but fans will still recognize the finished product. No casting has been set, but Greenblatt promises cameos aplenty. Reefer will be shot on a Vancouver soundstage starting in April in anticipation of a 2005 airdate.