BWW Reviews: AMERICAN IDIOT Blends Rock, Theatre in Entertaining Mash-up
AMERICAN IDIOT Blends Rock, Theatre in Entertaining Mash-up
American Idiot is a fun show. The energy is high, the average age of the audience is comparatively low, and the show is a fast-paced spectacle that blends musical theatre and the art of the music video.
The album American Idiot (on which the show is based) is a cohesive musical collection with a number of recurring characters and musical themes rather than a smattering of unrelated songs. The inherent storytelling within the flow of the music lent itself well to transformation into a script. The theatrical production stays true to the dramatic concepts in the album: the impotent rage of suburban kids struggling to find purpose, their migration to the big city, and their subsequent experience of becoming enraptured and entrapped in the beautiful, seductive underbelly of urban life. The release the characters find from being lost in the middle of their rudderless lives comes in a variety of expected forms: drugs, music, the military. Work Light Productions' of American Idiot does an excellent job of capturing the put out, self-destructive ennui of Green Day's album.
And while the direction of the show is a little predictable-it is just a very long music video, after all-there were some very successful moments, both humorous and poignant. The story centers on three friends in a band who want to skip their suburban town and head to the city. One stays behind with a pregnant girlfriend, one craves the structure of the military after only a short time in the free-fall of city life, and one falls prey to heroin addiction. Some of the most vibrant moments are the ones in which theatre and rock n' roll are paired together to exist at once, such as the emergence of St. Jimmy, a drug dealer who looks like Sid Vicious and slings glitter like a show girl. The staging was energetic and frantic, like a rock performance, but sculpted and choreographed in true musical theatre style. It's hard to fully integrate these disparate styles, especially the agitated energy and anything-can-happen atmosphere of a rock show with the structure of musical theatre, but American Idiot found the places of conflict that overlapped between these two styles and used them efficiently.
The opening song in the show/album, "American Idiot," speaks of America's cultural propensity to be controlled by the media in, what Green Day calls, "the information age of hysteria." The effect of the media presence in our current cultural landscape is a theme throughout the album, and was created onstage with a wall of televisions as backdrop to the stage action. The screens were always on, and flashed related content, à la a music video. The stage action takes place against this fortress of media devices, an ever-present reminder of the directing presence of immediate, though not always true, information in our society.
The vocal performances were high-caliber, especially impressive for a music-heavy show that runs a little over 90 minutes without intermission. Whether or not you're a fan of Green Day's music, or alt rock in general, American Idiot is a good example of how applying direct storytelling and performance to a musical collection can strengthen the album by giving it visual context. The concepts in the show match up with the raw and vulnerable qualities in the lyrics that are absent in the music. Green Day has been recording and preforming music with a major label for over 20 years; brash, young punks, they're not. Their album, American Idiot, reflects polished professionalism. Adding the theatrical backdrop gives the music a correlating visual interpretation that earns the emotional weight of the album's concepts. American Idiot delivered both the fun of a rock show and the glorious visual trapping of musical theatre for an entertaining mash-up of Broadway and Alt Rock.