When Green Day released the rock opera album, American Idiot in 2004 it was a response to their frustration at a post 9/11 world with its mass paranoia, propaganda and a generation’s desire to disassociate from the world around them. The sophistication of the lyrics and the sonic structure around them allowed the listener to personalise their experiences in the songs. It is this sophistication and their original intention to have the album ‘staged’ in some way, that resulted in the release of the musical in 2009. It is also a reason that made it easy for director Craig Ilott to skew the themes to a Trump-era world.

The story line is not ground breaking, it never intends to be. It follows the same path as the album – its a generic story anyone can relate to and personalise. The shortcomings are a lack of depth and character development and a fairly soft and fast wrap-up at the end but you don’t feel cheated by it.  Johnny, Will & Tunny can’t bear their dead-end lives in their dead-beat suburb so they head off. Will doesn’t actually get out, he is left at home to brood about lost opportunities, Tunny joins the army and Johnny wants to make music. Their lives  individualy fall apart and they deal with this in different ways before ending up back home reunited and wondering if they will every make sense of their lives.

The show starts with a punch and keeps punching. You move between depression, empowerment, frustration and exhilaration in moments.

What makes this show special and unique is that it starts out with a punch and keeps punching. Glenn Moorhouse‘s Musical Direction (with Nik Pringadi as musical adviser) ensures that Green Day’s rock is solid and catchy. There is little dialogue in between the songs so we are hit with a barrage of power rock vocals and a cast that hits the choreography and set changes with an energy that does not stop. Following the tradition of having the role of Jimmy played by a rick star, Sydney was fortunate to have Grinspoon’s, Phil Jamieson take it on. He relished in the role and owned the stage.

The entire cast are fantastic. Connor Crawford (Tunny) leads the trio of disaffected youth. He has a great charisma on stage so you care for him as he makes all the wrong choices. Linden Furnell (Johnny) gives warmth and heart to the depressed youth turned battling war veteran. Alex Jeans (Will) does a lot with a character that spends a most of time laying around on a couch. When he gets a chance to let rip on a song, he does it with gusto.

Overall this is a great night. This show may not be the pinnacle of sophisticated structure and plot twists but this show has emotion, heart and it really rocks.

If the men are strong, the women are right there with them. Kaylah Attard (Extraordinary Girl) and Ashleigh Taylor (Heather) command the stage and show strong, defining characters – and boy can they belt out a tune. But no matter how amazing this cast is Phoebe Panaretos (Whatsername) is the stand out. She arrives as the love of Tunny’s life and when he refuses to let go of the his drugs addiction and sort himself out, she gathers her girls around her and smacks him down with the stunning ‘Letterbomb’. As the final note echoes around the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall the cheers from the audience continued.

The ensemble are equally impressive. They all have amazing voices and energy. As each song bleeds into the next they are racing from one high energy choreographed song to whip set pieces off and run new bits on. All finishing with the slam of a garage roller door.  Lucas Newland‘s choreography is fast paced and tight, matching the frantic pace the music and show have set up. Josh McIntosh‘s set is a classic nondescript rundown back-alley that can easily adapt as the scenes change with the brilliant use of projection (Optikal Bloc). Having Tunny’s lines appear as graffitti on the wall as he spoke them was impacting. Similarly Matthew Marshall‘s lighting and Melaine Knight‘s costumes contributed to the perfect atmosphere.

Overall this is a great night. This show may not be the pinnacle of sophisticated structure and plot twists but it has emotion, heart and really rocks.
Green Day’s American Idiot plays at Her Majesty’s, Adelaide Festival Centre from 19 – 28 January, Perth’s Crown Theatre for 2 – 11 February, Melbourne from 23 Feb, Brisbane from 13-21 April and Darwin Entertainment Centre from 3 – 6 May.
Lynden Jones – Theatre Now & On The Town

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