Reefer Madness: 5 Broadway Shows That "Light Up" the Stage

To quote the hit revival of Hair: "As Mary Magdalene once said, ‘Jesus, I'm getting stoned!'" And flower child Jeanie, who declares the line while exhaling a hazy plume of smoke, isn't the only one sparking up on the Rialto. Broadway shows fall into trends as easily as films or fashion collections do, and we feel it is high time someone pointed out the growing crop of mainstream musicals and plays prominently featuring that most polarizing of herbs, cannabis.

Prohibitionists and straight-edgers, don't get too concerned -- most productions use marijuana as a medicinal tool to set the show's social or historical tone, and one even highlights the dangers, D.A.R.E.-style, of the green stuff as a gateway drug. Regardless of what onstage light is being shone on Mary Jane, we decided to weed through the present selection of shows to bring you a sampling of Broadway's stoner stars.

1. 9 TO 5

9 to 5 may be the first to boast a triad of onstage fantasies blatantly and shamelessly fueled by ganja. In fact, the crux of the musical relies on a friendship forged during a joint-passing session between fed-up office workers Judy, Doralee and Violet, who never would have joined forces without [SPOILER ALERT] the socially lubricating effects of some choice bud. The ladies may work 9 to 5, but the show's major action seems to kick in precisely at 4:20pm.


Did you really expect an era-defining musical about young hippies in an East Village park in the late '60s to omit the puffing and passing of its tribal lovers? While spliff toking goes on, well, pretty much throughout the entire production, the beaded, tie-dyed, draft-card burning denizens of take things to the next level with Act Two's Technicolor number "Walking in Space," a smoke and LSD-fueled musical ode to "floating, flipping, flying, tripping." But it's not all starshine and Aquarius: Leading man Claude spends the better part of an hour in the throes of one seriously bad trip, proving it may be "Easy to be Hard," but sometimes it is hard to be high.


Mom Diana may be downstairs popping pills (and more pills...and then some more pills), but just up the stairs, stressed-out daughter Natalie is blazing down with stoner boyfriend Henry. Earning double doobie points, the new musical boasts not one but two onstage bongs -- one made MacGyver-style out of an apple and a Bic pen. Cheech and Chong would be totally proud! For those questioning the merit of a show that depicts teens lighting up in plain sight, don't panic: It's called Next to Normal, not Next to N.O.R.M.L.(which stands for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), and is partially about the dangers -- and sometimes dire consequences -- of playing with one's own internal chemistry set.


"Do you wanna smoke a bowl?" And with that, edgy, over-it teenage rebel Jean plops down in the attic next to the Weston family's American Indian housekeeper Johnna (who politely declines). Don't judge the underage doper just yet -- you'd probably need a hit or two also if you had to deal with the matriarchs of the Weston clan (and considering the proliferation of pill-poppers, nicotine-addicts and alcoholics running around onstage, you can't blame Jean for having a vice of her own). If the greenery didn't lead to second-act drama (like the kind she finds with her aunt's pothead fiancé), we'd say Jeanie should call up Natalie for a covert session.


"Oh What A Night" indeed. Yes, the Four Seasons may have had a squeaky clean image during their reign in the 1960s, but as the Tony Award-winning musical proves onstage, it was an all-drinking, all-drugging, sexy free-for-all behind the scenes. During one debauched evening on the road, Frankie Valli, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi decide it's time to deflower songwriting golden boy Bob Gaudio, passing joints back and forth before passing one choice dame off on the virginal Gaudio (did a ganja-impaired memory contribute to the fact that Bobby famously "didn't even know her name"? You decide). Suffice to say that Gaudio hit a high note that late December night in ‘63 in more ways than one, with the hit song to prove it.


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