A loud, technology infused millennial call to action, like a psychedelic rock and roll drug infused dream, American Idiot has smashed into the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne following a sell out season in Brisbane in 2017.
The material of American Idiot, released in 2004, rings true today, gaining a fresh and chilling relevance from the change of idiot in power. Plenty of digs were made at the Cheeto-in-Chief and his toupee, a simple substitute from the original idiot George Bush.
The show is the visualization of Green Day’s seventh studio album, always intended as the journey of a self proclaimed “Jesus of Suburbia” making his way through a nightmarish American wasteland being crushed under the boot-heel of an imbecilic leader, and the death of the American dream. It touches on the struggle of the lower class, the aftermath of entering the war in Afghanistan.
It was intended to go on and inspire a politically savvy younger generation cleave its way out of this mess, and more than ten years later, its still relevant, and still inspiring audiences now in this new format.
The story follows three mates in the suburbs who crave an escape from their mind-numbing, aimless existence. Johnny (Ben Bennett) and Tunny (Connor Crawford) flee to the city, but Will (Alex Jeans) gets stuck in the small town after his girlfriend Healther (Ashleigh Taylor) gets pregnant. The city proves too much for Tunny, who finds his purpose enlisting in the army, and Johnny falls crotch over heels for a mysterious woman (Phoebe Panaretos) and also for his blossoming heroin habit.
The cast are electric: You’d never know that there had been a change of cast so soon before opening night, with Bennett stepping back into the role of Johnny like he’d never left it, complete with boy next door charm and manic energy displayed in Green Day front man Billie Joe Armstrong.
Crawford is emotive as Tunny, and alongside Jeans, they are a boisterous but depressing bunch, desperate to get out and be more, feel more, do more than their humdrum lives.
Christopher Scalzo is a stand out in the ensemble, and Ashleigh Taylor’s voice soars above the rest of the cast alongside Kaylah Attard’s as the Extraoridnary Girl. Phoebe Panaretos is a multi award winning actress with real stage presence as Whatsername.
Phil Jamieson is a witty, dark St Jimmy (also portrayed by Adalita, front woman of Magic Dirt, and Sarah McLeod, lead singer and guitarist for The Superjesus), the voice of Johnny’s darkness, drug addiction and temptation.
The brand new staging by shake and stir and QPAC, and Crag Illot’s direction have brought a brand new show to Australia, and it is so fresh and fantastic.
The set changes are slick and the technology used as part of the show is beyond impressive. The lighting and sound design are reminiscent of a rock concert, while the screens embedded in the set bring it into the modern age, running constant clips of news coverage, animations, social media coverage and more of the current political landscape across America, from Trump gags and memes to current news of the #metoo movement and more.
A lot of the flaws in this show lie in the show itself, and should NOT be used as a reflection of the company – they have put on a truly spectacular performance of a show that is sung through, meaning there is very little dialogue, and the pace at which the show moves at leaves little time for character development. I’m not saying the show makes sense; it leaves plenty for interpretation, such as “Who is st Jimmy? Is he real, imagined, Johnny’s darker side, his parents, his conscious….”
There are other little things, such as it being February when Heather gets pregnant, then it’s March and she’s nine months pregnant, or the cultural appropriateness of a burqua as part of an aerial wet dream, but it’s not clear whether these are directorial choices or written into the show itself. The words aren’t always enunciated clearly throughout the show, but the energy more than makes up for this.
The band spend much of the show rocking out on stage with the cast, entering and exiting with the set changes and adding another layer of awesome to this rock concert performance. Glenn Moorhouse’s band strike the balance between rock stars and Broadway show, with leading cast members joining them on acoustic guitars throughout the show.
It’s been a few days and I am still unravelling the onion of this show – there are still so many things I adored, and so many elements that keep coming back to me – the use of live video broadcast throughout the show, the excellent use of space, the special appearance of Coles trolleys. The show is memorable but like an onion – it’s a bit stingy, a bit spicy and it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.
An electric story of teen angst, rebellion and growing up, this show is unmissable for Green Day fans and theatre goers wanting to be challenged and experience something different. My inner teenager was screaming with delight to see my favourite album realized on stage.
American Idiot plays at the Comedy Theatre until 11 March – don’t miss it.
Tickets from Ticketmaster- http://americanidiotlive.com.au