Intrigue was what drove me to see American Idiot. I love musicals (a shocking revelation, I’m sure) and I was a fan of Green Day in my teens but I couldn’t see those two worlds meshing together. If they’d said Iron Maiden were doing a musical then I’d have been a lot less surprised - their music already has theatricality and an operatic quality - but Green Day? I wasn’t sure, but I was curious.
The thing about curiosity is that it sometimes kills the cat and though I can assure you no cats have been hurt in the witnessing of this show, a little bit of my spirit was.
I’m not too familiar with Green Day’s American Idiot album but I came to understand that it’s a concept album in reaction to an angry, fearful and disenchanted post 9/11 America. The musical aims to follow the albums storyline in the same vein but I can’t help feel a good general idea is let down by a flimsy plot that’s hard to follow. This isn’t aided by the one dimensional characters who aren’t introduced well and therefore difficult to keep up with.
It’s a bit like Green Day went to see Rent and tried to copy the recipe but left out the key ingredients of heart and depth.
The story mainly follows the ‘Jesus of Suburbia’ character Johnny (played by Alex Nee) as he leaves the apathy of his hometown to try and find something more in the city but what he actually finds there is more of the same on a bigger scale.
It’s hard to give much opinion on performance since I found all the characters so flat and stereotypical but all the performers did the best with them that they could. Notably Trent Saunders as St Jimmy (who is, apparently, an alter ego of Johnny’s – it seemed to me he was more like someone he’d befriended in a club) who stole the attention every time he was on stage and Kennedy Caughell who managed to make her character, Heather, a bit more real and relatable.
My favourite moments of the production were the softer moments such as ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ (which I love anyway) and the song Johnny sings while love interest, Whatsername, sleeps next to him called ‘When It’s Time’ (which is the first time I’d heard this song).
The lighting was in keeping with a rock concert – bright and often turned upon the audience. The set was, once again, very Rent inspired with that same grubby, urban, industrial feel using scaffolding and warehouse style walls embedded with many televisions which are used to set the atmosphere throughout. One television is put into a shopping trolley and hung above the stage which I take to be a comment on the dumbing-down of America relating to consumerism and greed.
What I find amusing about that message is the hypocrisy when you consider American Idiot’s own programmes – the high price for a start. I’m willing to pay £10 when it’s for a special event, such as Phantom’s 25th Anniversary but for a touring production in a regional theatre?? Extortionate. So what do you get for this? Damn good documentation and information I should imagine... right? Wrong. While there are many nice photographs from the production they’re not even of the tour. Hell, they’re not even of this cast!
So... what about this cast?? Who knows? I had to do some digging around on the internet to find the actors names because there’s not only NO CAST BIOS but not even a list of their names. Surely this is the main purpose of the programme? Thankfully, they have included some bios for the creative team. You’ll find it tucked away at the back.
The verdict – If you’re a big Green Day fan you’ll most likely very much revel in this show and enjoy watching scenes from the American Idiot album playing out before your eyes.
If you are a theatre fan who enjoys some of Green Day’s music you’ll find it lacking in most areas.
If you’re a musical fan who doesn’t like Green Day at all... why the hell are you even considering going? You’ll hate it.
If you’re someone who likes neither but does enjoy watching people in their underwear simulating very realistic sex scenes, turn up for most of the first act and the beginning of the second.
American Idiot will be touring various locations throughout the UK, culminating at the HMV Hammersmith Apollo in London. If you want to catch it at the Wales Millennium Centre, it'll be there till Saturday 20th October. For more information and to book tickets, visit www.americanidiotthemusical.co.uk