American Idiot — On Broadway

September 13, 2010

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American Idiot

by Billie Joe Armstrong, Michael Mayer
and Green Day

American Idiot Playbill

American Idiot Playbill

I don’t quite know what to write about this one as I don’t think they gave me enough in the 9o minutes to really critique it—-as a piece of Musical Theatre, that is.

Is it loud?  Yes.  Is the dancing ‘gritty’?  Yes.  Did they punk out the musicians and put them on stage?  Yes.   Is there a cool, multi-media set?  Yes.  Did they cast just enough ‘non-perfectly-beautiful-people’ in amongst the ‘beautiful people’ for it to make you feel like there are ‘real people’ up there?  Yes.  But all in all, it didn’t feel like a show.

I did enjoy it somewhat—the loud, pumping music is fun, if you like loud, pumping music, that is.  And I do……but there’s no real plot.  At the beginning you think there’s a story and you even think you know where it might be going…but it doesn’t end up going there….and you’re not really sure what the story they told you instead really was.

I’d still like to know how we ended up going from the bed of a junkie musician to a medical hospital complete with angel nurses….but I fear I’ll never know.

According to the synopsis (on American Idiot is about “Working-class characters — from the suburbs to the city to the Middle East — seek redemption in a word filled with frustration.”   But of all the people on stage (and it was a rather large ensemble), there were only a handful of defined characters, but they didn’t make you care about them and a few were easy to confuse.

Did the production telegraph the angry youth rebelling against “the system” or “the man”?  Yes.  But mostly through the wasteland set (punctuated by tv’s that go to end-of-the-night-static), angry-stomp-headbanger choreography, and a stubborn refusal to sing on-key.  Or  even on-pitch in some cases.

And yes,  you can dress the Cello player like a 1980’s-Madonna-Zombie and put her in the chair under the movable staircase….. and you can punk-out the keyboard player/musical director in a mini skirt, teased hair and one finger-less fishnet glove….but you know what?  The sense of rebellious anarchy is ruined the minute the musical director lifts her hand– oh so gracefully–to conduct.  Because that brings the whole facade right out into the light.

Yes, cast of A.I., I get it that while you are playing angry, out-side-the-system, “I don’t have to sing on key and you should cheer me for being such a rebel” characters…..the only way you can *actually* pull that off, as an ensemble, is to stay within the “lines” of the musical arrangement and direction.

And as everyone – from the musicians to the stomping dancers to the singers all follow her (the musical director’s) lead, it reinforces that, no matter how much you wish or think otherwise, everyone, but everyone—including these Green-Day-singing rebels on the stage of the St. James Theatre—play by someone’s  rules.

But I know what you *really* want to know is:  “Should I see it?”

So I say:  If you’re a real ‘theatre-buff’,  skip it…..

But if you really like Green Day…or are an angry teen…or enjoy feeling like an angry teen….then this would be the show for you!

St. James Theatre
246 West 44th Street, between Broadway and 8th Avenue
Now playing — open-ended run

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Filed Under: Entertainment, NYC, Theatre

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