BWW Reviews: AMERICAN IDIOT, Hammersmith Apollo, December 4 2012
For better or worse, there are quite a few musicals running in London at the time of writing whose scores consist of the back catalogue of a singer or group. Much recent attention had been paid to two in particular of course (The Bodyguard and Viva Forever, as if you didn't know), but slightly west of the West End, a noisy, vibrant gang has set up home in the Hammersmith Apollo and is demanding to be noticed - make no mistake, the American Idiot Tour of the US, Ireland and the UK has landed in London.
It might be tempting to refer to American Idiot as a jukebox musical, consisting as it does of the music of Green Day, but that would be something of a disservice to the production. Based on the punk rock outfit's lauded 2004 opus, the stage show plays more like an extension or a more detailed representation of that album, itself originally conceived as a rock opera.
The story is a fairly familiar one of disillusioned and disaffected youth, and concerns a trio of friends whose lives go in different directions and who spent rather a lot of time being a bit miserable while wearing eyeliner.
It's probably best not to pay too much attention to the plot though, simply because there isn't much of it to speak of. Instead, it's wiser to look at the show as a mood piece, or just an explosion of energy, clattering drums, flashing lights and head-banging (there's a lot of that to enjoy).
The busy, never settled stage is a mélange of metal railings, stairs and television screens, and the excellent young cast spend a great deal of time climbing and then hanging off anything that's within grabbing distance.
These antics are in equal parts exhausting and exhilarating to watch, and the company's total commitment is a pleasure to behold.
Alex Nee's Johnny is a strong if sulky presence, and he's more than matched by the gorgeous vocals of Casey O' Farrell as Will and the anguish of Thomas Hettrick's military-bound Tunny. Alyssa DiPalma as Whatsername performs her Act II showcase "Letterbomb" with fantastic vigour, but her character is such a non-entity in the script (presumably intentionally, with a name like that) that it's hard to care about her relationship with Johnny at any point, which is a problem when a fair amount of time is spent emoting about it.
Musical highlights include the best-known singles ("American Idiot", "Boulevard of Broken Dreams", "Holiday", and "Wake Me Up When September Ends" - which is staged and performed breathtakingly), and the score peaks with the brilliant "21 Guns". A sidenote: the music is of such a high standard that it instantly exposes the aurally comparable Loserville - catch it while you can, or don't - as the derisory third-rate knock-off it is.
While light on narrative and too prone to overwrought angst in places, American Idiot - a heady mix of RENT, Spring Awakening and Hair - is rarely anything short of an electrifying, relentless onslaught of riotous energy. Venture west to see it in this limited run, but whatever you do, don't call it a jukebox.
From This Author Kevin Sherwin