I just didn’t get American Idiot. Is the background on this show based on Mel Brooks ‘The Producers’, about a company that tries to make money by producing a sure-fire flop … but then it takes off?
The premise of creating a theatre production around a Green Day album featuring depressing content about George W. Bush and the Iraq War seems too Mel Brooksish to be true. But it is.
Bush, at least, has been updated to Trump for relevance but the entire show is just so damn depressing. I can’t work out who would enjoy this show. Theatre fans won’t grasp the Green Day theme, Green Day fans will be hard-pressed to understand the dance moves. Remember when Pink Floyd called one of their compilation albums ‘A Collection of Great Dance Songs’? At least that was meant to be a joke.
I can only assume this show will appeal mainly to people who don’t know Green Day and rarely go to the theatre. At least then they won’t make comparisons.
‘American Idiot’ is the Green Day equivalent to Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’. To take that to a wider audience Roger Waters adapted it into a movie.
This is technically a Rock Opera, not a Musical. A Musical features dialogue and song, a Play is just dialogue and an Opera is music. Dialogue is minimal in this show, used mainly for continuity.
The plot revolves around three down-trodden youths who want to want to escape their suburban dead-end. Along the way, they detour through a world of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Some might see similarities to the life of the shows creator Billie Joe Armstrong but unlike the life of Armstrong, none of them end up as world famous, millionaire rock stars at the end.
The Australian production features real rock stars Phil Jamieson, Adalita and Sarah McLeod rotating on various nights in the role of drug dealer St Jimmy. Their presence is definitely a drawcard. Jamieson was on-call for opening night. He channels his years as Grinspoon frontman into the character to own the stage and project throughout the room.
The real pressure is on Ben Bennett as Johnny, who took over the role only yesterday after the sudden sacking of Linden Furnell for alleged misconduct.
Connor Crawford plays Tunny, whose life takes a turn when he decides to go into the army, is wounded and has a leg amputated. Alex Jeans plays the third character Will, who plans on leaving town with Johnny and Tunny until he discovers his girlfriend is pregnant and stays behind.
They star alongside Kaylah Attard as Tunny’s nurse Extraordinary Girl, Phoebe Panaaretos as Whatsername, who befriends Johnny and starts the destruction of her own life and Ashleigh Taylor is Heather, Will’s pregnant girlfriend.
These six actors do a remarkable job holding a difficult plot together.
Maybe I am missing something. The original U.S. production did quite well and picked up a Tony nomination for Best Musical. This one really falls into the ‘alt-theatre’ category.
Regardless, Melbourne is once again crowned the Arts Capital of Australia with so many world-class productions running simultaneously. With ‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’ across the road from ‘American Idiot’ and ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’ playing just around the corner, Melbourne really stands alongside New York and London for major productions.
‘American Idiot’ will appeal to some people. If you liked ‘Beautiful’ or ‘Priscilla’, I doubt it will be for you.