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Painless: The Opioid Musical Featured on the Today Show

Dec 13, 2022

On November 25, Painless: The Opioid Musical was featured on the Today Show, recognizing the importance of this musical and the impact it has already made on our community. The feature showed viewers highlights from its first high school performance and responses from high school students who watched it live.

Painless started as an idea after Dr. Chad Brummett (Co-Director, Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network [OPEN]) presented to a group of high school health policy students. Dr. Brummett asked the students who could go home and easily get their hands on unused opioids within an hour. To his surprise, ¾ of the students raised their hands. “I realized me going around to classrooms and telling kids to “not do drugs” wasn’t going to work.” On the drive home, Dr. Brummett knew there must be a better way to educate high school students while also engaging them. He then had his aha moment and contacted some colleagues from the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance (SMTD).

Work on Painless began in 2018 after individuals from the group Families Against Narcotics were interviewed and their stories were transposed into song by multiple students from SMTD, including former student Jacob Ryan Smith. As the project grew, collaborators knew they could create something that not only engages teenagers, but also educates them about the risks involved with opioid use.

The first live performance took place in December 2019, where Dr. Brummett got to see what the final product of all this hard work looked like. “I was overwhelmed and impressed at the quality of the music and performance.” Excited to see where this project could go, Painless would unfortunately be put on a multi-year hiatus due to the COID-19 pandemic. 

After two years of waiting due to COVID-19, Painless finally was seen by its first high school audience in September 2022 at Community High School, where the concept for Painless was born and where the Today Show filmed their story. “During our first post-covid performance, I sat in the back of the auditorium and watched the student’s faces, wondering what the response would be. I was so pleased to see the engagement from the students, their attention, and the connection so many of them felt to the material.”

Going forward, Dr. Brummett hopes to create a network of musical theatre departments and theatre organizations who can perform this show and educate their communities. “As Painless continues to grow, we want to meet our goal of increasing our engagement with the state’s curriculum and educating our students on the potential risks and keeping them engaged in that conversation.”

The cast album for Painless is currently available to stream on all mainstream services. Painless will begin to tour more Michigan high schools in spring 2022, and the program is being formally evaluated by Sarah Stoddard, PhD, RN from the UM School of Nursing.

To learn more about Painless: The Opioid Musical and how to support his important effort, click here.