Thursday, June 14, 2012

"American Idiot" ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG!

Larger, and with some new material added, the new traveling production of Green Day's "American Idiot" is a visual and audio powerhouse. The music has been toned down in volume from the successful Broadway run, but the lyrics might still be difficult for you to make out so it helps if you're familiar with the original Green Day CD before you go in. But even if you don't know Green Day from Black Sabbath you will love the energy of this show.

It's a simple story: bored youngsters head to the big city, bad things happen and they return all the wiser -- more or less. Here, Johnny (Van Hughes), Tunny (Scott J. Campbell) and Will (Jake Epstein) decide it's time for their Big Adventure, except that Will has impregnated his girl friend so he has to stay home. Johnny runs into girls and drugs, Tunny ends up in Iraq and Will, who has stayed home, sits on the couch with his bong and beer. When they all meet up again, nothing has changed much.

But this is rock opera, a show inspired by the music. The idea is not to develop characters but to make those powerhouse choruses jump out at you. Do they ever. With Green Day you get anthems. "Take on the World," Giving it All Away," "I Don't Care if You Don't Care" -- the band sings these refrains over and over and you can't help but sing along. It feels great.

It's a little disconcerting that so much can be made of so little -- after all, nobody seems to learn anything except that the world stinks. But stop it, Dude. They're nineteen. It's rock and roll. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the audience is all younger than you are. When was the last time that happened in the theater?

"Do You Know Your Enemy?" Johnny, Tunny and Will do. It's me. It's you. Cool. This reviewer accepts his responsibility and will get in line for the next fantastic Green Day musical.

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "American Idiot" Three Stars with a BANGLE OF PRAISE. If the road show lacks the original hammer to the skull that it had in 2009, it may be because we are all older too. We especially love the exceptional aerial ballet of "Extraordinary Girl," featuring Scott J. Campbell and Nicci Claspell. This one song and set piece defines the entire show and earns its own BANGLE OF PRAISE. Brilliant.

"American Idiot"
The Orpheum Theater
1192 Market Street
Through July 8


Ren said...

I saw American Idiot on Broadway and the entire time I couldn't stop thinking how I would much rather be seeing Green Day in concert. I got best tickets from . Aside from some very talented cover bands, I don't get the appeal of seeing music you like performed by people other than the actual band.

DAK said...

Ren, the concept is, as I see it, that the people who go to a Green Day concert don't usually go the theater. I saw a very young crowd in the audience and this is desperately important to theater companies who generally play to old-and-older crowds.