BWW Review: AMERICAN IDIOT, Arts Theatre, 13 July 2016
Green Day and musicals. Not two things that normally sound right together, but with this surprisingly electrifying and energetic musical, you are left with a sense you have just witnessed something pretty special.
Featuring the music of the hit 2004 album, American Idiot tells the story of three boyhood friends and their search to find meaning and purpose in their lives after the events of 9/11.
Unusually, there is very little dialogue and everything is acted out through mime and the songs, allowing the audience to get caught up in the the lyrics and the superb performances by all of the cast and musicians. While this gives the audience a new perspective of the way that the characters' lives are portrayed, it can take some time to get used to and appreciate.
The story is pretty bleak, though its disillusionment and broken dreams feels appropriate for young people right now in terms of politics, jobs and quality of living - not just in America, but in post-Brexit Britain as well. On the other hand, the musical does leave you with a sense of joy and freedom as the characters embrace the direction that their lives are now taking.
The show is also surprisingly heart-wrenching and poignant, particularly when we see Tunny fighting in a war and dealing with the consequences of doing so, Johnny realising that he has lost the girl he loved, or Will understanding the importance of being a positive role model for his child.
What really drives the show forward, though, is the passion and energy of the extremely talented performers. Making his West End debut as Johnny, Newton Faulkner has a charisma that is instantly likeable, as well as stunning vocals during "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" and "Wake Me Up When September Ends" that hit the heart.
Amelia Lily, as Whatsername, has gorgeous vocals that really ring out and show her character's feisty side. She might not have any spoken lines, but she is wonderfully expressive in all of her actions and movements - it just feels as though she could have been used more.
Alexis Gerred also impresses as Tunny. It's compelling to watch his transformation from drug addict to war hero, effectively handled by Gerred - particularly in "Before the Lobotomy". His anger and rage is beautifully judged, eventually shifting into a quieter and more mature approach to life.
It isn't a show that's going to appeal to everyone, but it certainly knows how to make its presence known from the first scene until the end, helped by the sharp direction and choreography by Racky Plews - who shows his strong understanding of Green Day's music and how to translate it for the stage.
Picture credit: Darren Bell