Okay, pertinent facts up first: American Idiot tells the story of three lifelong friends, forced to choose between their dreams and the safety of suburbia.* The musical is based on Green Day’s Grammy winning multi-platinum album, American Idiot. It’s directed by Michael Mayer with choreography by Steven Hogget. Scenic and lighting design was done by Christine Jones and Kevin Adams. Sound by Brian Ronan and video projections by Darrel Maloney. Andrea Lauer was in charge of costumes.
Yes, it takes a village to get any artistic endeavor ready for public consumption.
How did this public person uh, consume the musical? Well…
I liked it and I didn’t like it. There were a few things to be desired for me personally in this musical, but then again, I was pleasantly surprised by the actors and new song arrangements. 21 Guns is one of my favorite songs and it sounded great sung by the full cast. Emotional and highly-charged. I got chills. But other songs (Jesus of Suburbia, Letterbomb, Give Me Novocaine) were so head-ache inducing and unintelligible that it just sounded like screaming. Which is a shame, because the entire cast could sing beautifully. To be fair though, I think the sound was just turned up so loud that it did something weird to the acoustics or something. I went to a rock concert a bit ago, sat like, 8 rows from the stage, and it was LOUD. But it was outdoors so the sound had some place to go. The sound here just couldn’t go anywhere, so it had a weird, under water quality to it at times.
So there’s an example of like/dislike. Want another?
The cast wasn’t huge by any measure, but there were enough people to keep track of that you really had to focus on them. The guys were a bit more easy to distinguish (like) but the girls sort of blended in with each other (dislike). The costumes were standard jeans and t-shirt, and while that lent a great natural, organic quality to the characters (like), it also made it hard to remember who was who but, more importantly, who people were and why they were (dislike). I forgot people’s motivations or got them mixed up with another, so there were times I felt lost in the musical.
Critics have raved about this show, calling it “groundbreaking” and “bursting with vitality” and you know what? When the musical hit its stride, it really did become something so much more than a Green Day compilation. Alex Nee had a lot to do with that, delivering a performance that was searing and manic and vulnerable and rude all at the same time. His voice was gorgeous, especially when wrapped around the slower pieces that really let him show off not just his range, but the color of his tone. Wake Me Up When September Ends, When It’s Time, and We’re Coming Home Again were especially mesmerizing. (Like…no, love! And he played guitar.)
Alyssa DiPalma’s performance was one of the bravest of the night. (Simulating sex in skimpy underwear in front of a near packed Heinz Hall??? Yeah, brave.) But I felt like she was criminally underused. I mean, I get it, it’s Green Day and it’s about three childhood friends and those friends are guys and we’re seeing the play through their eyes but DiPalma was electric when she was on stage…the minimal times she was on stage. She delivered on Boulevard of Broken Dreams (and it was a nice way to break up all the male singing) and I had hoped she would get another chance to soar that high again (no pun intended, considering her character’s drug use throughout the play) but she never did. (Dislike.)
American Idiot certainly is a different musical. The structure of it (song after song, hardly any dialogue) the set design of it (tv’s scattered throughout, displaying images as important to the show as the lyrics of the songs) and even the choreography of it (a lot of headbanging, a lot of jerky, rolling forward motions) is different. Different in a good way? At times. It certainly kept your attention. Different in a not so good way? At times. I’m sorry, I personally just had to chuckle when Alyssa DiPalma and Alex Nee were doing a slow dance with a tourniquet they had just used to shoot up. There was just something incredibly funny and a bit ridiculous about it to me. *shrug.
All in all, this 90 minute musical (with no intermission) wasn’t a waste of time. When it worked, it really worked. The leads were likable and the songs were recognizable and easy to strum your fingers to. In the words of my nephew Alex, who was my wonderful date for the evening, he thought the show was “grrrrreeeaat!”, “awesome”, and “amazing”. And he will DEFINITELY see it again. He’s also seeing Green Day themselves when they come to town March 31. He loved the musical. As for me, I liked it enough to urge you to take a chance and go on this fast-paced roller coaster ride. And I hope you have the time of you life. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
The show runs now through Sunday February 24. For tickets, go here.
*taken from the American Idiot website.