Rock Solid: American Idiot at the Orpheum through July 8
American Idiot, the blast-furnace of a musical built around the songs of Bay Area natives Green Day and first produced at the Berkeley Rep in 2009 has circled back from Broadway, landing at the Orpheum for the final run of its first North American tour (Now through July 8). The rock solid cast—including several veterans of the New York production—takes the stage with an exuberant ferocity that belies the fact that this is the last stop of a long haul that began in Toronto six months ago.
After last night’s official opening, we spotted director/conceptualist Michael Mayer positively beaming at the back of the house, surely impressed at the stamina and professionalism of this remarkable troupe. You’d be hard-pressed to name another touring show with this degree of polish.
The show stitches all of the songs from the 2004 American Idiot album—along with numbers from Green Day’s subsequent 21st Century Breakdown record—in a loose, poetry slam of a storyline about a troika of teenage boys seeking to escape the miasma of contemporary suburbia in search of some inchoate ‘better life.’ Propulsive punk-pop songs like “I Don’t Care” and “Know Your Enemy” effectively convey the sneering, pissed-off angst of adolescence, while anthemic ballads including “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and “Wake Me Up When September Ends” alchemize sometimes self-dramatizing teen bathos into genuinely moving onstage moments.
The emotions and characters in American Idiotare as boldly and broadly drawn as graffiti tags: Musical vernacular aside, the show is much more akin to opera than to traditional musical theater: It invites its audience to get swept up in the music, to wallow and soar in grand percussive projections of their of their own emotions, rather than closely follow witty lyrics and clockwork plotting.
American Idiot even has its own three tenors: Van Hughes as Johnny, who descends into heroin addiction; hunky Scott Campbell as Tunny, who joins the army out of aimlessness rather than patriotism; and Jake Epstein as Will, who stays behind in their hometown with his pregnant girlfriend. They’re remarkably focused actors, imbuing their loosely sketched roles with specific humanity and creating surprisingly individuated characters amidst the overall atmosphere of stomping ensemble spectacle.
A bell-clear sound system, an arsenal of well-deployed lighting and video effects, and Steven Hoggett’s frenetic full-bodied choreography help American Idiot concentrate and elevate the the pleasures of an arena rock show into something just as visceral, but much more rewarding in the intimate 2200-seat Orpheum.
Sit in the pit! A limited number of $25 Orchestra Pit Rush seats will go on sale two hours prior to each performance at the Orpheum Theatre Box Office only. These tickets are available to anyone and you must be present to purchase. Cash only with a limit of two tickets per person. Tickets will be sold on a first come, first serve basis.
Video clip after the jump