Book: Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer
Music: Green Day
Lyrics: Billie Joe Armstrong
Director and Choreographer: Racky Plews
From the moment the audience enters the auditorium of the Arts Theatre there’s no getting away from the setting of Sell A Door’s production of this anarchic musical byGreen Day. With moody punks dotted around the house and clips of post9/11news footage playing on designer Sarah Perks’ grimy and ingenious set, the dark tone of the evening is confirmed.
American Idiot, based on the album of the same name, tells the story of Johnny, a small town under-achiever whom, having grown disillusioned with an America gripped by the fear of terrorism, moves to the big city to find himself. Soon he finds himself grappling with fierce isolation, self-loathing and drug addiction.
Racky Plews’ production is loud, in your face, and very well put together with some particularly inventive staging. Supermarket shelves turn into a bus, which veers wildly round the stage as the well-drilled ensemble sing the anthemic Rock score.
Newton Faulkner plays anti-hero Johnny with searing honesty, making him both sympathetic and decidedly unlikeable. Amelia Lily plays his underwritten girlfriend Whatsername with real passion – her transformation from damaged girl-next-door to vengeful ex is a delight to watch and her voice is truly superb.
One of the most interesting characters, St Jimmy, played with gleeful energy by Lucas Rush perfectly personifies the dangerous euphoria of drug addiction. He dances around the stage with a dandy-esque quality, seemingly jovial and menacing all in one move.
The show also boasts an excellent, hard-working ensemble who take on dozens of roles and career around the stage belting out the hits.
The book – written by Billy Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer – is arguably the show’s weakest asset. Several storylines intertwine as the fate of Johnny’s friends are shown but at times it does feel like the show runs out of story, even with a modest running time of 95 minutes. Much of the dialogue (although there is very little) comes across as hackneyed, with most gags landing flatly.
The score absolutely saves the evening, however, with each song more bombastic, angry and energetic than the last. True, it is sometimes difficult to understand exactly what’s being sung but the joy of this show is authentic rock performances that Green Day would be proud of.
American Idiot may have a niche audience but it is an exciting, powerful musical that should be praised for its authentic portrayal of confusing millennial lives.
Runs until 25 September 2016 | Image:Darren Bell