No bubblegum allowed…
If you think that musicals are all sugar coated and full of hearts and flowers then book yourself a ticket to see American Idiot to be proven very wrong. The Tony-award winning musical can only be described as down-right dirty and at times proves an uneasy watch. Some of the best productions aren’t always comfortable though and this one will have you leaving the theatre experiencing a production that is edgy, raw and thought provoking.
American Idiot follows the popular vein of musicals based around songs from a band, such as Mama Mia (Abba); Our House (Madness); We Will Rock You (Queen) and Viva Forever (Spice Girls) – which never quite lived up to its title. It features a catalogue of songs by US punk rockers Green Day, mostly from their rock opera album of the same title. The production draws more comparisons with musicals such as Tommy or Jesus Christ Superstar as there’s little in the way of the spoken word leaving just the songs to tell the story of wasted youth.
We meet three best mates embarking on adulthood in the wake of 9/11, with George Bush at the presidential helm. Johnny is a wannabe revolutionist, patriotic Tunny wants to serve his country and Will has to face up to his responsibilities as he becomes a reluctant young Dad.
It’s all a bit confusing at the start; the show bursts to life with number after number being manically played out. Fast, intense and abstract it makes you feel like you are on a rollercoaster that’s out of control and you’re not really sure what’s going on or if you are enjoying it. Thankfully after about 10 minutes someone hits the break and American Idiot starts to prove why it has so much acclaim since opening to audience on Broadway back in 2010.
It’s definitely a grown-up musical, tackling hard hitting themes like drug addiction, post war syndrome and depression, plus there’s more than the odd sprinkling of expletives throughout out so if you are easily offended then this is definitely not the show for you.
Alexis Gerred was unable to perform on the night I saw the show, which led to Cellen Chugg Jones playing the role of Tunny (he usually plays Theo). Despite the switch Cellen shone brightly, performing a really passionate and moving rendition of Give Me Novacaine in the scene where Tunny has to come to terms with the effects of the war.
The entire cast need commending for their impressive vocals which resonated throughout the auditorium of Manchester’s Palace Theatre, full of power and energy. Also watch out for X-Factor’s Amelia Lily giving a solid performance as female lead Whatsername and looking right at home rocking out.
You don’t have to be a Green Day fan to enjoy this musical (although it is surprising just how many songs you will recognise).To use the words of the infamous band themselves – American Idiot is ‘something unpredictable, but in the end is right’. Trust me, by the time the curtain falls you will have ‘had the time of your life.’
Runs at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until 9th April.