No, I’m not insulting anybody. I simply went out with two friends to see a production of Green Day’s American Idiot: The Musical.
Of the three of us, I was the biggest fan, in that I actually own the entire original album, not just the hit songs from it. But I don’t know it that well. Like, I only know the lyrics to the hit songs from it, and I’ve never taken the time to try to figure out what the plot or concept behind it actually is—though it appeared to have something to do with a young man’s angst.
So we were all going in blind, not knowing what the story or characters would be.
It turned out to be centered around the character of Johnny, who plans to escape suburban dreariness and do something wonderful and revolutionary in the city. His friend Will has to stay behind because of his pregnant girlfriend, Heather. His other friend Tunny does go with him, but they have a falling out and choose different paths. Then Johnny meets and falls in love with Whatshername. [No, I didn’t forget her name; that is that character’s name.]
Green Day’s music is absolutely front, center, essential, everything to this production. Spoken dialogue between songs is limited, mainly consisting of Johnny’s dated monologues or letters letting us know how much time has passed and the character’s reaction to what happened in the last song. And though I had to look this up to confirm, it does include every song from the original American Idiot album, in order—but it uses some additional Green Day songs from that period of their career to round out the story
There’s no orchestra with this; it’s truly a rock musical, to the point where the guitarists, bassist, keyboardist, and drummer are actually up on stage, in the open, with the actors, through the whole production. The cast also sometimes joins in on guitar (on a couple tunes Johnny sings with himself as accompaniment on acoustic), and their voices—oh my God! What amazing singers. (Somewhat better than Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, I would say.) But they have voices suited to rock, not Broadway, if you know what I mean.
(And on a shallow note, they were quite a nice-looking and fit bunch as well, which made for some pleasant viewing from our excellent sixth-row seats.)
It was a super energetic production, 110 minutes, no intermission. The dancing features a lot of head thrashing, fist pumping, and running and jumping. The staging was industrial-looking, featuring a lot of TVs that helped propel the mood of the story, with occasional strobe lighting and glitter.
So I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if you aren’t a fan of guitar-heavy, potty-mouthed, angry /angsty rock music, this is not the musical for you.
But we quite enjoyed it. Though it has to be said [do I have to give spoiler alerts on a musical?], the ending is not of the triumphant, feel-good sort. Love does not conquer all. Dreams are not realized. The world is not a better place at the end than it was at the start.
I thought that was brave, but also couldn’t help wishing it could end on a bit of a happier note.
Which is why the cast encore was so brilliant, and perfect, and not really cheating at all: Green Day’s “Good Riddance (The Time of Your Life)”.
It’s something unpredictable
But in the end is right
I hope you had the time of your life!