Review: Green Day’s American Idiot at Proctors
Last night was the opening showing for Green Day’s “American Idiot” musical at Proctors.
The first thing that I learned is that if you at any given point in your life (likely young teens for people my age), learned all of the words to a Green Day album, the lyrics stick with you YEARS later.
I was a big fan of Dookie, which came out in 1994, (which I discovered in maybe 2001), and I can remember telling my friends with conviction that American Idiot, which came out in 2004, was the “better of the newer” Green Day albums as I burned CD copies for a select few… (I think this memory means I’ve always been a bit of a music snob?) However, regardless of how my tastes have changed, I’ve always been impressed by how large the creative body of work from Green Day really is. The discography of Green Day spans eleven studio albums, three live albums, five compilation albums, three video albums, twelve extended plays, three box sets, forty singles, ten promotional singles and thirty-eight music videos. That is a lot of material to work with. I think it is important to take into consideration the massive body of work that Green Day has produced prior to talking about the musical version and to consider that this adaption, as created by Billie Joe Armstrong himself, was simply one direction it could be taken in.
Narrowing down the plot and musical selection to American Idiot for the musical adaption makes for a good starting point, and the conceptual album in itself allows multiple themes to emerge such as modern warfare, American youth, discontent, exploitation, advertising, pride, self-discovery, self-expression, drug use, sex, the army, media influences, punk culture and pure angst. With all of that in mind, you can pretty much take the story anywhere, all while leaving it up to open interpretation for the audience as visually presented on stage. I was happy to see that there were a couple songs from other lesser-known Green Day endeavors thrown in the mix, but compare the song list to the track listing on the actual album and the musical adaption follows in strict order and includes it all.
There’s a very good chance that American Idiot marks the first time that Proctors’ stage has seen extreme drug use, suggestive sex scenes, more-than-occasional cursing and an unplanned pregnancy pretty much all juxtaposed at the same time, with a not-so-happy ending to top it all off. I’m sure Billie Joe Armstrong would be pleased to know that his one-act adaption wasn’t censored at all. I was a bit surprised at this, given that Proctors typically features family-friendly shows, but was pleased that the company decided to host the authentic version without any censorship. You could even say that’s rather punk rock of them.
Knowing the background of the album makes for understanding the musical a bit better. If you are planning on seeing it tonight or tomorrow, I’d recommend spending some time on the Wiki page for it. Essentially, vocalist/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong traveled to New York City alone for a few weeks, hoping to clear his head in order to develop new ideas for songs. The concept for the musical follows this idea closely, and the central character, named Jesus of Suburbia, was created by Armstrong to portray an anti-hero image, with characters Whastername and St. Jimmy being introduced along the way.
I found the plot to be a bit scattered to hold my full attention and there was a lot going on at all times. The open stage layout allowed for different scenes to be taking place at once and I found it to be a bit overwhelming as a result. For some parts, the crossover between stories made for an interactive and interesting scene and I liked that the actors and actresses accomplished a lot in their storytelling with very little. The stage design featured dozens of TVs, which made for a chaotic and key part to the musical, and also some scaffolding, a bed, a bathroom door, a couch, an open window and that was pretty much it.
The talent on stage was immaculate and not to be criticized harshly. The lead actor especially was my favorite casting and I really enjoyed his energy throughout. Actors and actresses rarely fail to impress me during a live show and American Idiot was no exception. I feel as though the cast was selected to be younger intentionally, which aided the musical greatly. I also enjoyed that some moments were so intense that from where I was sitting you could see that the actors were actually spitting as they talked and sang. The actors/actresses didn’t care in the slightest about messing up their make-up or hair either, and let them do their thing as if no one was critically watching.
Overall, I’d say that if you see this musical you will walk away with Green Day songs permanently stuck in your head and if you enjoyed the band to any degree over the past couple decades, you will enjoy the musical. It wasn’t the best musical I’ve ever seen, nor was it the worst. Always rewarding to do something outside of your normal routine and Proctors is an easy choice for that.
The show runs tonight and tomorrow night and tickets are available at the Proctors box office.