Thursday, February 23, 2012

American Idiot lives up to its name

On February 21st I waited in the lobby of the Orpheum Theatre, decked out in red and black soft punk attire trying to maintain my cool and not bounce on my toes with excitement as I waited to see Michael Mayer’s American Idiot. I have been an avid Green Day fan for years. When I was nine I knew the lyrics and track order of the whole American Idiot album. For my thirteenth birthday my Dad treated me to a Green Day concert at the Target Center, which I loved.  I was ready to love this Broadway rock operetta adaptation of a favorite album.
When the curtain rose, my first impression was, unsurprisingly, angry. And I loved it. The black, grungy set was unique and detailed. I found myself trying to read what was written on the heavily postered walls. All the set pieces, composed largely of a few ladders and some furniture, moved smoothly and could be used in every scene. The combination of chaotic, tense TVs covering the stage and slightly painful strobe lights satisfied my teenage angst. However, my need for an intriguing, well told story was left woefully unfulfilled.
The story was treated as a side note, so lax it was barely there; the post-9/11-disaffected-young-men-making-their-way-through-life plotline was often difficult to follow. I feel that an operetta was the wrong format for this musical. Being limited to songs that don’t have straightforward lyrics detracted from the story and made it that much harder to understand.
The characterization was cringe-worthy. The three main characters were caricatures throughout the musical, lacking convincing development. The most notable example of this was Tunny, who suddenly changed from incessantly-sleeping-slacker to to patriotic-American-soldier after one apparently very convincing number. The acting was solid, but not inspired.
The music was the high point of the production. Each song was consistently emotionally charged, changing from loud and angry, to slow and sad, to quiet and sweet. There were points when I teared up. I appreciated every musical number, and they helped me forget my frustration with the lack of storyline and characterization.
If you have a need for storytelling in your theatre experience, a tendency to seize from flashing lights, or delicate sensibilities, don’t bother. If you are a Green Day fan or a person who needs an outlet for their angst, then you’ll enjoy American Idiot. The experience is like a well done artistic tribute concert. Go for the music and spectacle and you won’t be disappointed.
The headbanging was severe and incessant. I hope they have a chiropractor on tour with them.