Can we take a minute to be amazed by the fact that Green Day’s American Idiot is TWELVE YEARS OLD. I remember picking it up when it came out, and it was one of the first story-telling concept albums I’d listened to. I loved it. Although, not as much as I loved Warning. But still, I pretty much had it on non-stop for weeks.
Usually, jukebox musicals aren’t my bag. Probably because I’m not really into a lot of the music that they use for them. But when I was offered the chance to check out the Green Day musical, American Idiot, courtesy of the nice folk at BoxOffice.co.uk, I was obviously totally keen. Based on the aforementioned album of the same name (obviously), the band and particularly songwriter Billie Joe Armstrong played a key role in the musical’s development.
But anyway, the bit y’all wanna know about. Is it actually any good?
Firstly, as a Green Day fan, I honestly wasn’t 100% sold. Perhaps it’s because I’m used to hearing the tunes in Billie Joe Armstrong’s instantly recognisable voice. Or maybe because seeing punk rock songs with dance routines is a pretty alien thing. Title track ‘American Idiot’, which opened the show, perhaps overdid the ‘SO TOTALLY PUNK’ thing a little too much. This is something I did grow to accept and warm to as the evening went on. Huge props to the entire cast though, who gave fantastic and engaging vocal performances all round. X Factor star Amelia Lily (as ‘Whatsername’) showed that her pop vocal translates effortlessly to the stage, filling the entire theatre. And pop bloke Newton Faulkner in the lead as Johnny was at his best performing with just his guitar – but he definitely gave the punk rocker thing a good go.
As a theatre fan? It was pretty bloody brilliant. The group numbers are fun and entertaining, particularly ‘Holiday’, which is given fun physicality of a bus journey to the city. The ‘Jesus of Surburbia’ section, which happens early on, does a fantastic job of moving the plot along and allows multiple cast members to shine. The character of St Jimmy, played by Lucas Rush, was a particular standout – brimming with hectic energy.
The small stage is made full use of with split levels and simple props that manage to create identifiable scenes and locations. Having a live band on the stage was great, and it was refreshing to see the three main male cast members actually playing their guitars. (I assume they were actually playing their guitars anyway, or else they acted it out pretty well…)
From listening to the American Idiot album from the start, it’s clear it tells a story. The representation of the story on stage is well-scripted, pretty much how I’d have pictured it playing out in my head. The final track, ‘Whatsername’, takes the audience back through the story and explains how everything played out – particularly who St Jimmy really is (although, if you’ve listened to the album, you’d already know).
Despite my initial reservations about a Green Day musical as a fan, I actually really enjoyed checking out American Idiot. It’s definitely worth a watch, whether you’re into that kind of music, or just theatre in general.
American Idiot: The Green Day Musical runs until 25th September at Arts Theatre, London. Tickets are available via BoxOffice.co.uk.
*I was given a pair of tickets to review the show. Opinions and punk rock spirit (lol) all my own.