Sunday, April 25, 2010

Some Thoughts on American Idiot

If you've been reading this blog, or following me on Twitter, you know that I've been pretty excited about American Idiot, if a little apprehensive. I finally saw the show on Friday evening and I was not disappointed. This isn't going to be a traditional review, but I do want to explore a few of the reasons why I enjoyed it so much.

I was speaking to Steve On Broadway about the show, and he made the very good point that a Broadway musical, especially one as polished as this one, is the antithesis of punk, and I do agree with him, but I'm not that interested in whether it's truly punk, but whether it succeeds as a musical. On the basis that I was entertained from start to finish, I say it does.

It has more of a plot than I expected. Johnny (John Gallgher Jr.) is bored with his life and leaves town on a Greyhound with his friend Tunny (Stark Sands). Their friend Will (Michael Esper) is forced to stay home when he finds out his girlfriend (Mary Faber) is pregnant. Johnny turns to drugs, pushed on him by St. Jimmy (Tony Vincent) while Tunny joins the army. In the end, they return home, basically reverting back to their old lives. There isn't much room for character development, but for a show about American idiots, it's pretty fitting that they end up where they started.

Visually, the show is stunning. Christine Jones' set seems to reach the heavens with TV screens (Darrel Maloney provides the video), newspaper clippings, and advertisements. Shopping carts float in the air. The spastic choreography is a thrill to watch, as are the energetic performances by the entire cast. And of course there is the music. There is very little dialogue, so Green Day's aggressive and occasionally (dare I say) beautiful score takes center stage. Sands and Esper are vocal standouts.

The biggest misstep in the production occurs after the curtain call when the cast members grab guitars for an encore--"Good Riddance." It's a cheesy move and also undermines the show by telling us we should have had the time of our lives. Why not let the show speak for itself?


Kathleen said...

Glad you liked it -- my friend Allison saw it twice in California and I think she's seen it in NYC. That does sound like a terrible way to end a show though... that song is such a buzzkill!

Spencer said...

Singing "Good Riddance" is a Green Day tradition... at the end of every concert, they sing the song.... so yes, it becomes a little cheesy, but it's more about Green Day tradition then.

Linda said...

Spencer, since this is a Broadway show and not a Green Day concert, it still doesn't work for me, even if it is a nod to Green Day.