I want to be an American Idiot
Published: Sunday, September 9, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 19:11
Rock has made its place on Broadway.
Last Saturday, while students filled UB Stadium, fans clad in black eyeliner, plaid and band-tees settled in at the CFA for Green Day’s American Idiot. This event brought the punk rock scene to Broadway from 2010-11 and is now the touring company that continues to advocate theaters’ need for ruthless rock musicals.
The show’s aggressive tone and sneering lyrics make the score a stunning example of how to bring radio tunes to the stage. American Idiot isn’t a jukebox musical; it stands far away from the likes of “We Will Rock You” and “Mama Mia.” “American Idiot” is a concept album turned into a fluid piece of theater. Its shot of blunt commentary on American culture makes it bold and refreshing.
Act one began with the resounding boom of the familiar guitar chords of the show’s title song. On stage is an eight-piece band, seamlessly intertwined with the set, cast and show’s action.
Billy Joe Armstrong, Green Day’s lead singer, and the show’s producer Michael Mayer wrote the script for the show. Mayer also produced the Tony Award-winning best musical, Spring Awakening. American Idiot definitely has the same teen relatability and torment apparent in Mayer’s other production.
But overall, it’s a rock concert first and a show second. The intensity and brilliance behind Billy Joe Armstrong’s lyrics and Tom Kitt’s (composer of Next to Normal) stunning orchestrations make the plot seem cliché and somewhat weak in comparison.
American Idiotfollows the lives of three suburbanites and best friends that feel trapped within “Jingletown” – the ambiguous representation of the typical suburb. They all struggle to navigate through the post-9/11 world. The show has a constant air of chaos as it jumps around between the three relatively simple on-going plots. The progression of the characters, and mainly their emotional journey, is apparent in the score, but not in the quick quips of speech that take place between songs.
Johnny (Alex Nee), and Tunny (Thomas Hettrick) escape suburbia for the city, while Will (Casey O’Farrell) is stuck at home with a new baby and a less-than-satisfied girlfriend (Kennedy Caughell). Tunny, not fulfilled by the city, joins the army.
Johnny narrates the show, primarily through letters he sends home. Nee plays the tormented, angst-ridden Johnny with the appropriate amount of desperation and torment. He’s snarky and sarcastic, but his passionate performance makes you root for a character whose disdainful decisions would otherwise make youhope for his demise. He falls for the sensual and ambiguous “Whatsername,” (Alyssa DiPalma) as well as to the thrones of heroin.
Johnny and his friends are lost and troubled, left to figure out how to handle a world they’re not proud to be a part of.
Around them sits a set reminiscent of Rent. It’s dark and dirty, properly reflecting the characters’ resent and hopelessness. On the back wall, varying TV screens are placed to project scenes from the media or images relevant to the ongoing plot. The lighting of the show, most notably in the haunting rendition of “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” makes it obvious why the show snagged the Tony Awards for best lighting and best scenic design in 2010.
But the impeccable high-energy choreography of Steven Hoggett and the exhilarated young cast provide an authentic portrayal of a complicated era. Any Green Day fan will be in awe of the added depth to songs like “Are We the Waiting” and “We’re Coming Home Again” from the addition of a powerful chorus of 20 voices.
The American Idiot tour is slated to end in June 2013. The closest the show will come near Buffalo again is Hershey, Pa. in March 2013.