American Idiot, based on the cultural hit rebellious album by the punk-rock band, Green Day, takes the stage. Though an unexpected move to some, it became very clear that once on Broadway, the show was a phenomenal hit and made perfect sense. The band confessed that they wrote the album with an ongoing plot in mind in the hope that they would bring it to the stage one day. Centred around the angst of young Americans post 9/11, the show uses the majority of the album’s music and barely any additional text to make its story clear. It would seem that it can be achieved, given the praise of the original production. This production however struggles in direction and character to bring forward any story and the cast, even though clearly are all vocally-talented, fail to connect with their own performances and nothing about them comes off as ‘punk’ nor represent the style of Green Day in their heyday.
What is strong regarding this production is the set. Sarah Perks has designed a brilliantly grungy set to which every corner is used. The title song echoes even before the show begins with the set covered in people with televisions for heads and media clips of the 9/11 attacks and so-called patriotic Americans responding back with threats and bigoted, uneducated assumptions on the event. A clip of President Bush recites ‘You’re either with us, or you’re with the terrorists‘. It’s a powerful introduction and the set reflects the theme completely.
The show starts off with the title number and one of the most well-known songs from Green Day is taken from its roots and becomes a number with synchronised head banging, stereotypical teenage angst (a la Spring Awakening, Bare or even Rent) and shows choreography that is closer to fitting to A Chorus Line. I do not believe the show should be treated in similar ways to alleged ‘rock’ musicals but unfortunately this production suffers from just that. The style continues throughout and demonstrates a lot of musical-theatre-esque actions to numbers that prove to be detrimental to the show.
The spacing and movement could be vastly improved as words and focus were lost throughout. There were a few technical difficulties and sound problems, which didn’t help, but even if it was all working fine I worry that the story would still be heavily lost. It’s an ambitious thing to put on a musical that the majority of which is song, but even more so when the songs used are well known and are put in a slightly different context to serve purpose. None of the actual spoken text seems to help the story either and an overly long silence in the second act about a character struggling in drug use was painful for all the wrong reasons.
The cast suffer from a lack of direction and though they are all clearly talented, majority don’t seem to understand their characters or their motives. At the very least, it’s not clear or consistent. And very rarely did they command the audience’s attention impressively. The one memorable exception was Karina Hind, who even though was understudying her role, managed to snap my attention in the second half with a duet number.
The show manages to put these fantastic songs in a different light, though the harmonies are hit-and-miss and some of the most memorable Green Day songs come out lukewarm. ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’ suffers from a lack of emotional understanding and musically could have been much stronger. However, other, not as well known numbers are highlights like ‘Are We The Waiting’ and ‘Give Me Novacaine’. ’21 Guns’, probably the band’s most pop-styled song goes down well too.
It is clear when watching that American Idiot is an amazing show and it’s a shame that this production can’t fully display that. The negatives heavily outweigh the positives. It makes me wish I saw the original production. If you are going to see this production, I suggest reading the plot beforehand and to get the most out of the music, it’s best you know as many of the songs as possible. If you’re not a fan of Green Day already, it’s not probable that this production will convert you. Maybe wait a few years for a hopeful revival as I do believe it’s something that could be worth seeing.
Review by Tomm Ingram
American Idiot Overview
Green Day’s explosive, award-winning Broadway musical American Idiot is now touring across the UK in 2016, direct from a hugely successful and critically acclaimed London run. X Factor finalist Amelia Lily will be reprising her critically acclaimed role, Whatsername alongside Alexis Gerred, Llandyll Gove, Lucas Rush and Steve Rushton. They will be joined by Matt Thorpe (Jersey Boys) who will be playing Johnny.
Winner of two Tony Awards® and the 2010 Grammy Award winner for Best Musical Show Album, American Idiot is the story of three boyhood friends, each searching for meaning in a post 9/11 world. The show features the music of Green Day with the lyrics of its lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong and book by Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer.
US rock band Green Day released their American Idiot album back in 2004. Inspired by epic rock operas such as Jesus Christ Superstar and The Who’s Tommy, the album soon went multi-platinum, selling over 15m copies to date and winning a Grammy for Best Rock Album. Now in 2015 they’ve been inducted in to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame confirming their reputation as one of the biggest rock music acts of the last 20 years.
This thrilling new musical has had Green Day fans in rapture and introduced a generation of theatregoers to their powerful and moving musical style. So come and discover what all the noise is about!
Recommended ages 14+
Wednesday 30th March to Saturday 2nd April 2016
Book Tickets for Churchill Theatre
Tuesday 5th to Saturday 9th April 2016
Book Tickets for Palace Theatre Manchester
Tuesday 3rd to Saturday 7th May 2016
Book Tickets for New Theatre Oxford
Tuesday 10th to Saturday 14th May 2016
Book Tickets for New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham
Tuesday 24th to Saturday 28th May 2016
Book Tickets for Sunderland Empire
Tuesday 31st May to Saturday 4th June 2016
Book Tickets for King’s Theatre Glasgow
Tuesday 21st to Saturday 25th June 2016
Book Tickets for Liverpool Empire