BWW Review: AMERICAN IDIOT, Manchester Palace Theatre, April 5 2016
Green Day's American Idiot had the punk rock band's fans out in force for the band's rock opera - even if the staged version of the 2004 concept album was a little less than the sum of its parts.
The original album tells the story of a teenage anti-hero Johnny, a Jesus of surbubia who tries to find his way in the big city along with his two friends. It taps into some of the despair of the post 9/11 world with young people realising they'll never get the standard of living their parents had.
The music is Grammy-award winning - and deservedly so. The musicians, aided by former Son of Dork member Steve Rushton as Johnny's deadbeat dad friend Will, have the right kind of energy to do the music justice. And most of the cast do too, but there's always a risk in casting musical theatre actors in a rock opera, and Matt Thorpe - whilst a fine performer - never quite convinces as a grungey rebel and can't quite do Billie Joe Armstrong's lyrics justice. The choreography had similar problems, in Boulevard of Broken Dreams the masked dancers were more comical than menacing.
There's also been a bit of stunt casting with Amelia Lily given top billing as Johnny's love interest Whatsername - and whilst her performance is good, it's clearly not the lead role in the show.
The touring set clearly had some teething troubles, with curtain up 15 minutes late and a pretty shambolic end of act one. But Sara Perks' graffiti strewn stage, with metal bars and ladders perfectly evoked rock clubs of the early noughties.
The main problem is whether the show works beyond the album - there's very little exposition and very little real story. Plenty of named characters are never really introduced - and with Johnny very hard to root for as he descends from teenage rebel to drug addicted punk and back again, you end up enjoying the songs but wondering whether you wouldn't have had just as much more fun seeing Green Day just perform the album - or even listening to it at home.
But fans of Green Day will have lots to enjoy.