This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

20Jun/10

AMERICAN IDIOT

Green Day’s seminal album is now a Broadway hit

St. James Theatre
246 West 44th St. between Broadway & Eighth Ave.
Tickets: $49-$252
www.americanidiotonbroadway.com

In 2004, Billie Joe Armstrong, Tré Cool, and Mike Dirnt, better known as Green Day, released AMERICAN IDIOT, considered by many to be one of the best records of the first decade of the twenty-first century. An unblinking examination of life during the post-9/11 Bush era, AMERICAN IDIOT unleashed a breathtaking suite of songs that held nothing back. Green Day has now collaborated with Tony Award–winning director Michael Mayer (SPRING AWAKENING), Tony Award– and Pulitzer Prize–winning composer and orchestrator Tom Kitt (NEXT TO NORMAL) and Olivier Award–winning choreographer Steven Hoggett (BLACK WATCH) — to bring AMERICAN IDIOT to the stage. Whereas the album borrowed generously from Mott the Hoople, the Alarm, the Sex Pistols, the Rolling Stones, and even Bryan Adams, the Broadway musical borrows just as generously from HAIR, ROCK OF AGES, WEST SIDE STORY, and TOMMY. The show follows Johnny (John Gallagher Jr.), Will (Michael Esper), and Tunny (Stark Sands) as they try to break out of their hellish suburban existence only to discover that the world is an unkind, uncaring place. While Johnny falls in with drug-dealing demon St. Jimmy (Tony Vincent) in the big city and Will gets sent to Iraq, Tunny remains home in the mind-numbing suburbs with his pregnant girlfriend, Heather (Mary Faber), with happiness to be found nowhere. Green Day successfully worked with the actors and musicians to make sure the songs did not become overly Broadway-fied, which is a prime reason why this rock opera is so enjoyable. Hoggett’s choreography is energetic and, at times, inventive and thrilling, and Christine Jones’s Tony-winning multimedia set design is appropriately grungy, but the production feels long even at a mere ninety minutes, and it doesn’t really add much to what Green Day has already said on record. The book, written by Armstrong and Mayer, is riddled with clichés, and several new songs fall flat. Still, the staging is wonderful, featuring inventive uses of a bed, hospital gurneys, and a fire escape, and songs such as the title track, the “Jesus of Suburbia” suite, “21 Guns,” and “Whatsername” sound great, even in a Broadway theater.

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