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Carte Blanche soars to new highs with ‘Reefer Madness’

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Most kids were raised with public service announcements pestering them during their Saturday morning cartoons. The PSAs were annoying to kids who just wanted to watch “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” in peace, but otherwise harmless. However, some were so melodramatic that they became rather hilarious instead of informative.

"Reefer Madness: The Musical" opens this weekend at Carte Blanche Studios. Photo via Carte Blanche.

That’s exactly what happened to the 1936 film “Reefer Madness,” which has now been turned into a tongue-in-cheek musical comedy. Carte Blanche Studios will debut its three-weekend run of the show’s Milwaukee premiere on Friday, Nov. 4.

“It’s never been done in Milwaukee before,” co-owner and general manager Adam White said. “We’re extremely excited about the show, and we’ve had a lot of people talking about it.”

The original film started as a cautionary tale about the dangers of marijuana. However, the problems stemming from the “reefer madness,” ranging from vehicular manslaughter, lusty affairs and dangerous jazz music, were so outrageous that its anti-drug message was lost. The film wouldn’t gain popularity until the ’70s, though, when it was discovered as an unintentional comedy. Recently, in 2005, the musical version was turned into a film for Showtime starring Kristin Bell.

Despite its start as an earnest PSA, the film and the resulting musical contain a great deal of adult content. Carte Blanche Studios has not given the show an age restriction, but the poster notes that it is adults only.

“It’s an adult-themed show,” White said. “There’s a lot of drugs and sex. There’s an orgy scene in it. It’s definitely not something we would recommend for minors.”

Carte Blanche Studios is used to these kinds of irreverent shows and musicals. Their previous show was a farce based on “Mein Kampf.”

“I like dark comedies,” artistic director and co-owner Jimmy Dragolovich said in an email. “The darker the better. I like to make people laugh as much as possible, yet also, even if only subconsciously, come away from a show having a deeper understanding of life, love, relationships, faith and suffering.”

Their unique choices, however, are not only about shock value. “Reefer Madness! The Musical,” for instance, is more than just a pot comedy; it’s also a cultural commentary and political satire.

“Jimmy and I have been friends since high school, and both of us have always been drawn to it,” White said. “I used to be very politically active with nonprofits around town when I was younger, and that’s just kind of always stuck with me.”

The show also has a special connection to Carte Blanche Studios. This particular show will be the company’s 25th production. The producers wanted to pick a show that they really felt strongly about for the landmark occasion.

“I’ve been wanting to do this one for a few years now,” Dragolovich said. “It’s really a great musical that makes fun of propaganda. There’s so much you can do with such a stylized and over-the-top script.”

The company is pulling out all of the stops for the production’s publicity as well. There have been various members of the cast and crew roaming the streets in costume, handing out flyers and making the upcoming show known.

With a crazy origin and an even crazier storyline, Carte Blanche Studio’s “Reefer Madness! The Musical” guarantees to be the funniest musical ever based on a 1930s public service film and a hilarious one in its own right.

 

“Reefer Madness! The Musical” opens Friday, Nov. 4 and runs through Nov. 20. Show times are 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 6 p.m. on Sundays. Student tickets are $15. For tickets and more info, visit carteblanchestudios.com.

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