BWW Review: HIGH OCTANE 'AMERICAN IDIOT' REFLECTS A GENERATION'S FRUSTRATION at Mad Theatre in Jaeb Theatre

BWW Review: HIGH OCTANE 'AMERICAN IDIOT' REFLECTS A GENERATION'S FRUSTRATION at Mad Theatre in Jaeb Theatre
Left to Right: Aaron T. Castle, Doug Buffaloe, Chelsie Hooker.
Photo by Chaz D Photography

It has been a great year so far for incredible musicals and mad Theatre's "American Idiot" is no exception. Featuring songs from Green Day's album of the same name, as well as songs from 21st Breakdown, debuting to a packed house on Thursday, April 5, the cast and crew of "American Idiot" birthed a frenetic paced show to be proud.

This intense show follows three disgruntled young men, Johnny, Tunny, and Will stuck in suburbia and the vastly different paths they take and the people they cling to and walk away from, to find meaning in a post 9/11 world.

Billie Joe Armstrong, Green Day's lead singer and guitarist, wrote the lyrics and co-wrote the book with Michael Mayer, winning two Tony Awards in 2010 and a Grammy for Best Musical Show album in 2011.

As relevant - if not more so than when it debuted - the electrifying rock-opera with very little dialogue had no flaws and you'd expect at least one on opening night. From leads to ensemble to the perfectly located live band under Tim Flores' expert direction, director Clareann Despain has captured lightning in a bottle. This 90-minute - no intermission - musical gave the singers and dancers not a minute to catch their breath before diving (at one point quite literally) into the next choregraphed number.

The set designed by Dwayne A. Cline, complimented by lighting - part musical - part rock concert - of Anthony Vito, couldn't have been any more perfect for capturing the gritty feeling the show needed to portray. The catwalk into the audience made us feel like part of the action.

Meli Mossey did an outstanding job showcasing the punk fashion style of musical.

The choreography was Broadway-worthy. First time choreographing for mad Theatre, Kelly King's bio accomplishments read like a Who's Who and she can proudly add "American Idiot" to the roster. Using the entire theatre as the stage- without giving too much away - the choreography - the way she had the cast use everyday objects in a completely different way was exceptional. I could have stayed another 90 minutes to see more of dance numbers; however, the cast might have passed out by then - their energy is NoDose, high octane coffee, RedBull and 5 Hour Energy in a perfectly synced performance. I can't imagine how exhausted they must be when the theatre high wears off.

Yes, this show might make you uncomfortable (there's a lot of swearing and middle fingers), but it's a reflection of a generation's frustration, an FU response to a country that currently thinks all they do is eat Tide Pods and snort condoms when they are so much more than that. The storyline features many themes including love, sex, drug abuse, sexuality, suicide, violence and political outrage. A special call out to the sign "Protect Lives Not Guns" that got loud applause from the audience, recognizing the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Doug Buffaloe as Johnny absolutely blew me away. I could easily hear his voice on radio. He was ideally suited to this transformative role. "When It's Time" and "Wake Me Up When September Ends" were a few of my favorite performances.

You can't mention Johnny without talking about Chelsea Hooker's powerful performance as his love interest, Whatsername, especially during "Last of the American Girls/She's A Rebel." This talented young woman has got pipes and dance moves to die for. Oh, and she also plays a beautiful guitar.

Eric Lamont Newman is amazing as Tunny, going through his own personal transformation. On guitar during "Give Me Novacaine" was extraordinary.

Jacob Rosado as the laid-back Will dealing with his girlfriend Heather's pregnancy (the vocally-gifted Julia Mason) is another beautiful voice and guitar talent. I loved his performance of "Nobody Likes You."

I couldn't believe that the photo of an All-American clean-cut guy called Aaron T. Castle was the same actor on stage portraying the tormented, intense drug-addicted St. Jimmy. But I guess that's what acting is about - sinking your teeth into a role and becoming that character. Aaron in an incredible vocalist and I was mesmerized by his violin skills.

Everyone involved in this production gave more than 100 percent and it shows. This show is truly punk perfection.

When my first honest reaction at the conclusion of the performance matches some of the repeated language in the show - holy f*** - I know director Clareann Despain is on to something. Whether you like Green Day or not, go see this show.

Oh, and don't leave immediately after the cast bow. If you leave right after, you will miss something magical. Like I said, it's not often you have a front seat to witness lighting in a bottle.

"American Idiot" runs through April 15 at Jaeb Theatre at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets available at https://madtheatre.com/performances/green-days-american-idiot.



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From This Author Deborah Bostock-Kelley

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