2004 was a time of turmoil all over the world. Nothing was constant but the war in the Middle East, capitalism, and the conservative agenda led by President W. Bush. Peeking out from the smoke of everything is a band who gives all a little hope and a good look on life. Now Green Day has taken their award winning album ‘American Idiot’ and ‘21st Century Breakdown’ with the direction of Michael Meyer (Spring Awakening) to bring a coming of age story to the stage.
This story revolves around three friends and their life over the course of a year. Johnny, played by Van Hughes, Tully played by Scott J. Cambell and Will played by Jake Epstein. The three are best buds who want to go to the city to make it big, their own way. Plans get derailed even before they can get out of suburbia as Jake has a new ‘duty’ to take care of. In the city Tully eyes his calling after a few weeks and joins the military. This leaves Johnny alone in the city with all its ups and downs, the girl of his dreams and other mind blowing pleasures. In this year all will find themselves, one way or another.
Billy Joe Armstrong of Green Day and Meyer wrote the story of these three friends. It is clean and simple, delivered right in front with little dialog and heavy music. Rather refreshing seeing the music take the front and not the backseat with spoken words, especially with the lyrics presented already in a manner that many have described as a punk rock opera with the two albums featured.
Another key to the shows overtone of commerce and urban decay is the mix mosh of items to create the stage from the mind of scenic designer Christine Jones. Video monitors everywhere add to the paranoia of the time with constant brain teasers between songs that remind us how we were constantly glued to them for information whether it was true or not. The ability of the stage to morph and become many facets of the characters surroundings is kudos to Jones.
But to truly appreciate this show you cannot take anything away from the key elements of Van Hughes, Campell and Epstein as well as the ensemble. These three talented singers take Billy’s lyrics and belt them as if you were at a Green Day concert with Van Hughes being the anchor. However the stage stealer physically and vocally would be Joshua Kobek as St. Jimmy. Kobek embodies Billy’s onstage antics when he performs with Green Day with a little Sid Vicious thrown in for a very high energy and spastik performance that many enjoyed. Besides, not many singers/actors can take their character and make you laugh at their own demise, St. Jimmy can.
‘American Idiot’ is a guilty pleasure of seeing and hearing some of the best music written. It is a show to go and enjoy and not have to think or reflect too much on. It reminds us of where we have been and what we’ve done. My favorite quote overheard after the show from a more mature woman, “Wow, I need to rethink my bad opinions of this new musical theater.” Precisely, musical theater is changing and this may be its next formula for success.
If I were to put my spin on this production as I do with all my reviews it would be simple. Don’t trust everything you see, hear, are told, or feel is what is best for everyone else. Each of us makes our own decisions and need to benefit from our actions or step up and take the consequences. Life is too short and sometime you have to take a stand for who you are. Live life and love each other.
See Green Day’s “American Idiot” at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts May 29, 2012 – June 3, 2012.
Follow my adventures in entertainment in Southern California on Twitter @SCThrillsMarc.