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American Idiot – New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

Director: Michael Mayer

Lyrics: Billie Joe Armstrong

Choreography: Steven Hoggett

Reviewer: Karen McCandless

[Rating: 3]

Punk rock in the shape of the Green Day-based musical American Idiot rocked Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre with a fast-paced, high-energy performance, packed to the brim with enthusiasm and fun.

The musical features all the usual suspects in terms of songs – American Idiot (of course), Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Wake Me Up When September Ends and a little guitar-based treat from the whole cast for the encore. The basic premise of American Idiot is that Johnny (Alex Nee) is unhappy with his life in suburbia so decides to move to the big city along with his two friends in search of some excitement. Things don’t quite go to plan as one of the gang gets his girlfriend pregnant and decides to take the honourable decision to stay behind; meanwhile Johnny finds that life in the city isn’t quite living up to his expectations.

The storyline, however, took second place to the dancing performance; in fact there really wasn’t much of a storyline and hardly any dialogue at all. The characters and storyline could have been much better developed with some additional dialogue as the singing and dancing themselves, while providing a visual treat and a good bit of toe tapping, didn’t quite form the basis of a captivating piece of musical theatre. It was like watching a spectacular dance performance to the music of Green Day. And there was no doubt about it, the choreography and dance performances were outstanding, from every member of the cast. I think I even spotted some capoeira inspired moves in there. The new arrangements of the songs for the stage were a highlight, the singing was on point and the lyrical interpretations were good on the whole. Nee did have a certain amount of charisma but he was overshadowed by his alter ego St Jimmy (Trent Saunders).

It was a fun and enjoyable evening but American Idiot is very unlikely to became a classical, must-see musical spanning generations. It’s not in the same leagues as the top class musicals in terms of storyline, music or content. It’s not particularly funny but it is quite political, a reflection of the culture of the US in the 2000s – George W Bush, the Iraq war and pop culture such as Britney Spears and Angelina Jolie. This isn’t really a surprise, given the politically and socially charged nature of many Green Day songs.

For lovers of Green Day’s music and style, this will go down a treat. It’s got the same, rebel-like feel with grungy backdrops of a more urban, back street America. Alternatively, those who are just in it for a good show will also be pleased, as the show’s energy is what makes it an entertaining night out. Not for everyone, but my advice is to just take it as it is – a fun and fast-paced rock music-themed performance.

Runs until 1st December 2012


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