The Toke of the Town
John Kehoe and his company are currently showing his brainchild 420 The Musical on April 27, 28 and May 5. Yan Gong /// The Spectrum
The Mighty High (John Kehoe) can't help but make a dramatic entrance. Boxers, a Hawaiian shirt, and a Burger King crown adorn his majesty, as fairies pass him some smoke-able materials. Cruising his way to center stage, he greets his visitors with a yawn, lays back in his La-Z-Boy, and looks up from orange-tinted sunglasses. It's a look that assures The Land of 420 is safe again.
Last Saturday, the laughter wasn't only due to over-use. The Vault hosted John Kehoe's glorious comedy, 420 the Musical, which kept the audience members of the small venue on Main Street thoroughly entertained.
The musical's writer, director, and actor, John Kehoe, began the night with an important announcement.
"There will be some smoking on stage. It's nothing harmful, but I thought I'd let you know," Kehoe said.
And just like that, it began.
4:20 is the time and date associated with smoking marijuana, and exactly one year ago, Kehoe was pet-sitting for his Aunt's dog Arlow when an idea hit him.
"I was listening to classical music and Arlow was there; just hanging out. I was rolling another joint and I thought, 'There should be something going on tonight. There should be a play about 420,' so I started jotting some ideas down," Kehoe said.
Due to his improvisational background as a member of Comedy Sportz, Buffalo's best-known improv comedy group, Kehoe wrote the play expecting things would be changed. He brought the drafts to rehearsals and had workshops where the material was rewritten and reworked by the cast.
"It was an incredibly safe environment to apply our craft and take a risk," said Nick Russo, who played the roles Pat and Bud.
The story follows Jerry (Thorin Vallentin), an every-day weed smoker who falls asleep after inhaling some grass, winding up in a mystical place known as The Land of 420. He finds himself on a quest to find the Mighty High, which can only be achieved by first locating Doobie Dave (Todd Fuller). Dave uses the Oracle of Sight, otherwise known as a cell phone, to reach his majesty.
The crowd was given complementary snacks with their ticket, as well as blankets and pillows to lie on, while enjoying the smell of burning incense from a nearby bookshelf. As Kehoe states, this was part of his vision.
"I've been to enough plays and stuff where you walk in, you sit down, you clap, and you leave; and I wanted a little bit more," Kehoe said. "That's why I had the blankets and pillows, and the munchies, and all that kinda stuff; to try and have an atmosphere of the night. 420 should be on pillows and blankets, lounging back, enjoying life, that's how it should be."
Characterizing stoner personalities was one of the best-achieved tasks of the musical. Doobie Dave played a forgetful stoner who can't seem to remember the Mighty High's phone number without playing the Tommy Tutone song "867-5309" on kazoo. The amusement continues when he hangs up after forgetting why he called in the first place.
The antagonist, Epic Fail (Ian Rowlins), also had some great moments that characterized his hate for marijuana users. His masterful plot is to rid The Land of 420 of marijuana so that beer can take over. With "a keg on every corner," he can satiate his desire for women, since no stoner girls in The Land of 420 are inebriated enough to hook up with him. This character was essential to expressing the hypocrisy of society's attitude toward drugs.
"Stoners, ugh, why can't you just get drunk like normal people?" said a frustrated Epic Fail.
The Musical garnered roaring laughter due to several references throughout, which tickled the fancy of those familiar with reefer culture. Steve Miller Band, Doctor Who, The Lord of the Rings, and the film Krull were a few examples.
Junior legal studies major, Laura Lonski, composed the music for the play in only five weeks. The musical numbers emphasized cheeky piano playing that allowed characters to spill humorous anecdotes to the audience. Lonski also played the roles Becki and Bic.
This musical undoubtedly has many themes that are controversial due to legal issues. Kehoe admits, however, that now is the perfect time to release a musical of this nature due to changes in public acceptance.
"We wouldn't have gotten the same acceptance just 10 years ago that we do now. Folks aren't as uptight about it or as weird about it...I'm more hooked on phonics than I am on weed so I don't know why it has the stigma that it has," Kehoe said.
The remaining showings of 420 the Musical will run April 27, 28, and May 5 at the Vault on Main St.
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