MusicalReviewSouth West

Green Day’s American Idiot – Exeter Northcott Theatre, Exeter

Book: Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer
Music: Green Day
Lyrics: Billie Joe Armstrong
Director and Choreographer: Racky Plews
Reviewer: Christy Ku


Punk rock as musical theatre – sounds ridiculous? It couldn’t possibly work – but it does.

The award-winning musical takes its title and music from Green Day’s multimillion-selling concept album American Idiot and uses a few tracks from 21st Century Breakdown, the band’s second rock opera. This production is currently halfway through its UK tour.

The musical follows three friends; Johnny (Newton Faulkner), Tunny (Alexis Gerred) and Will (Steve Rushton) as they leave – or have to stay behind – their stifling suburban home of Jingletown for the bright lights of the city. Soon, the three are separated for a year and fight their own separate battles – a real war, drug addiction and fatherhood – before being reunited, unsure of what they are running towards.

Opening with a giant TV broadcasting the Twin Towers attack and George Bush’s speeches, the musical is set in post-9/11 America. The youths are disenchanted with their leaders and are sick of being saturated with TV and the media, an environment that is still very applicable today. The show bursts abruptly into action, revealing the graffiti covered and run down concrete effect set. With a few props, it transforms into run-down apartments, hospital beds and warzones throughout the show.

American Idiot is theatrically spectacular with incredible lighting design, fast-paced choreography and an excellent live band playing on stage. Unfortunately, it sometimes fails to hit the high energy required throughout the show, although St Jimmy (Lucas Rush) injects another dose of madness and gleeful delirium with each elaborate appearance.

Faulkner plays the lead – with a history of creating chart-topping albums, the pressure is on him to lead the songs. He lacked the effortless rasp required to deliver Billie Joe Armstrong’s vocals but with Faulkner’s beautiful and rich voice, the ballads were perfect. Amelia Lily, playing Whatsername, and Gerred have exceptionally powerful vocals and impressive range – their numbers are something to look forward to.

American Idiot has an immensely talented cast, although it gets messy and unclear on where to focus. The second act is stronger as the full company meld their abilities together to sing 21 Guns, a key highlight of the show.

Bringing punk rock on stage is hugely difficult, especially when the music is the soundtrack to so many people’s teenage years. Full of raucous fun and exceptional talent, American Idiot is a must for every Green Day fan.

Runs until 22 May 2016 | Image:Darren Bell

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