Weed Shop the Musical
Musicals are a funny form of entertainment. People either like them or avoid them like that last meal with your ex.
In this case, experiencing the latest musical to hit the NoHo arts scene at the Eclectic Company Theater convinced me that I am the former type of person. Weed Shop the Musical is an original production with a large cast of enthusiastic performers that sing, dance and make the audience howl with laughter.
This transformation from a six-second musical from the NYU’s summer film intensive to this wildly creative and original production has depth beyond the outlandish songs and lyrics. This may be a coincidence, but it is interesting how timely the discussion of legalizing marijuana in California for recreation and the plot line of this production merge. The upcoming vote may change the law from medicinal purposes to recreational for adults. However, this poignant tale centers on the current laws, medicinal reasons only.
The main characters are the idealistic and overly helpful physician who meets the dispensary owner. Both are looking for love. Of course, since this has strong farcical overtones, neither one wants to tell the truth about their passion for cannabis or what they actually do to make a living. They fear telling each other the truth. It might destroy any hope of a future together, so they continue to fabricate stories while falling in love.
Dave is the dispensary owner (Nate Werner) who is desperate to find someone who shares his vision of the benefits and pleasures of marijuana. Dr. Wilson, his date (Amanda Charney), thinks that finding a mate would be impossible if they knew what her many years in medical school has led to. Thus, the secrets and lies game continues through some wonderful musical scenes. Oh, let’s not forget a crazy ex-girlfriend, Stefanie (Katie Porter), and Dave’s shop co-owner Kyle (Mandie Hittleman) that certainly add to the funny plot twist in this production.
Each time I witness a full production at the Eclectic, I am impressed with the simple production design for the stage. Here they split the small stage with the perfect setup for this theme. In the forefront, we see the weed shop with a counter and many jars allegedly full of the magical weed. Patrons enter and purchase some as the counter person takes a small amount to transfer to another smaller container. Off to the right we see a desk and a sign that is the setting for the doctor’s office. Patients come and go with over the top ailments that they can’t possibly have at their young age. It is funny to hear all the known sickness and symptoms from these actors. It’s as if they memorized all the medicine commercials from television. Remember, this is a musical, so as often as a scene changes, another song begins. The music is one of my favorite parts of the show; and they all have wonderful lyrics. The hidden live band in the rear is a good touch that adds a fresh tone to each song. My favorite lines were, “I believe in Weed,” sung by the idealistic and wonderful doctor, and “You’re the best I could get,” sung by Dave. Others include “Let’s go shut down the Weed shop,” “I need a prescription for something green,” and “I’m so Jewish.” This last one had everyone in the audience roaring.
The atmosphere in the theater is festive, exciting and alive. All the actors appear to enjoy their roles immensely. There is plenty of singing and dancing by the whole cast. Katie who plays the misguided uptight first girlfriend of Dave might have a long career in comedy. She is very funny and doesn’t care about what silly line or inflection she needs to take for the character. Dave appears as a stoner kind of guy who really wants some love. We all have known or met this person before, and the actor Nate Werner plays him in a sincere manner with a possible hint of personal experience. Dr. Alicia Wilson’s character seemed a little one dimensional however; Amanda Charney has the loveliest of voices in the entire cast, sweet, melodic and original.
To stage a production of any story is not an easy task. It is a labor of love and hard work. The hard work here shines right through. The creators of this musical, Becca Grumet and Madelyne Heyman, have done a very good job from the evolution from the original plot. In fact, Madelyne Heyman is also the writer and director as well. The ensemble at the Eclectic is always an in sync crew that exhibits its experience and talent with emotion and zest. Thank you to the producers Madelyne Heyman and Amanda Charnery with a special nod to the musical talents and arrangements of Amanda Yarmate, Will Robertson and Ryan O’Connell.
The Eclectic Company Theater is an intimate theater that welcomes everyone who appreciates good productions and loves small venues. Weed Shop the Musical is on stage Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The theater is located at 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd, North Hollywood, 91607. Call for tickets at (818)508-3003 or at electriccompanytheater.org.