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BWW Reviews: Green Day's AMERICAN IDIOT Gets You Out of Suburbia

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Aging myself, I was barely out of high school when Green Day's "Dookie" came out in 1994, and as its 2004 predecessor, "American Idiot" became a five-times platinum album, the lyrics to most of the musical version played at The Palace last night have long since been burned into my brain. Billie Joe Armstrong, Green Day's vocalist/guitarist wrote the lyrics for "American Idiot" in the rock opera style of "The Who", with songs that follow three disenfranchised young men- Johnny (Alex Nee), Will (Casey O'Farrell), and Tunny (Thomas Hettrick) as they attempt to leave their stifling suburban selves in the hopes of not becoming another "American Idiot". Visually brilliant- it's easy to see why the musical scored 2010 Tony Awards for Scenic Design (Christine Jones) and Lighting (Kevin Adams)- the chaotic backdrop of a multitude of t.v. screens amid a warehouse like club façade that transforms into amongst others, a bus and a hospital ward, is edgy and overwhelming at times, but definitely a good fit for the punk alternative era. It was odd to watch what felt very much like the mosh pit of a great alterna-rock concert play out on stage in the grandeur of the Palace Theater, but I also have issues with M& Ms being eaten during Broadway shows, so I digress...

The cast is exceptional. Alex Nee's Johnny is appropriately angsty and Nee does his best to add some depth to a relatively flat character. His "Boulevard of Broken Dreams", begun with just his solo guitar is haunting and gorgeous. However, the album, which centered around the character of Johnny ("Jesus of Suburbia"), translates poorly when the spotlight becomes split among the three leading men, none of which ever really becomes captivating enough to draw you in to their plight. Not for lack of trying, though. Largely couch-ridden throughout the one-act musical, Casey O'Farrell's Will is also well-sung, and Thomas Hettrick's Tunny provides some of the only, much-needed emotional depth to the show as his character escapes suburbia to become a soldier, with devastating results in "Give Me Novacaine". His acrobatic scenes with The Extraordinary Girl (Jenna Rubaii) are entrancing to watch and some of the most electrifying chemistry of the evening ("The Extraordinary Girl"). Other notable performances include Trent Saunders as the drug dealer St. Jimmy, who does sadist nicely, especially on "Know Your Enemy", but whose character is undeniably one-dimensional, despite incredible vocal energy. Also, Alyssa DiPalma as Whatshername, is vocally brilliant, and talented enough as a stage presence to evoke moments of concern- a connection largely lacking in most of the show- her "Letterbomb" was one of my personal favorite numbers of the evening.

The ensemble is obviously talented. Vocally, they are as good as any other touring production I've seen. The choreography by Steven Hoggett is sharp, edgy, true to the alternative grunge culture it represents, and though a bit repetitive at times, still delightfully interpreted by the ensemble and entertaining to watch. The on-stage band was perfect, cranking up the volume to rock-concert heights and adding to the youthful, rebellious feel of the show. Perhaps the most fun number of the evening was a surprise encore performance of "Good Riddance(Time of Your Life)" sung by the entire cast, each strumming their individual guitars, and while completely campy, a definite must-do in a Green Day show.

Overall, the musical was more of a fabulous concert, with some dramatic moments thrown in for good measure. It lacked the dialogue needed to pull together the plot in a meaningful way, and diversified the focus from the original album too much, resulting in some disjointedness. You should be forewarned also that parental caution should be exercised when considering sharing your trip down musical memory lane with your children, as the show contains almost constant, well, "sex, drugs, and rock n' roll"- appropriately so, but no so much for the under high school aged crowd. That being said, you'd be foolish not to take the opportunity to step outside of your suburban box and take in "American Idiot" while it is here- if for no other reason than to chuckle at how absurd it is to sit politely in velvet-covered seats during such an energetic rebellion against complacency. Just don't eat M&Ms while doing so. That's all I ask.

Green Day's "American Idiot", the Musical plays at The Palace Theater at 34 West Broad Street on Wednesday, 3/20 at 8pm; Thursday 3/21 at 8pm; Friday, 3/22 at 8pm; Saturday, 3/23 at 2pm and 8pm, and Sunday 3/24 at 1pm and 6:30pm. For tickets, go to: http://www.ticketmaster.com/

PHOTO CREDIT: John Daughtry


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From This Author Lisa Norris

Lisa grew up participating in community theater groups such as Cincinnati Young People's Theater (CYPT) in suburban Cincinnati, Ohio, both in front of and behind (read more...)