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I’ll be honest with you, I had reservations about this show. Musicals based on the songs of a established artists or shows don’t always translate into great entertainment, and translating the songs of Green Day, a band about as far removed from musical theatre as I am from a Ugandan minister, was always going to be a hit-or-miss affair.
But this was a hit. A very powerful hit.
Set in nowheresvilee, USA, sometime during the presidency of George W. ‘I am the decider’ Bush, the story revolves around the lives, loves and losses of Johnny, Will and Tunny, guys who want nothing more than to escape the stifling conservatism of their dead-end town and head to the bright lights of the city. Two of the guys do make out, and then their lives take hugely divergent turns. The leading man, Johnny, spirals into a passionate, drug-fuelled romance, while Tunny gives up on his anti-estabishment dreams and joins the US Military.
The story itself isn’t especially complex, an American idiot, or indeed a British one, can easily understand it, but the story (which is told entirely through song) isn’t what you go to see this show for. You see it for the songs. And they’re good.
Musical director Evan Jay Newman and Green Day’s very own Billie Joe Armstong have managed to take the raucous, angsty, slightly harsh sounds of Green Day and smooth them round the edges to produce a repertoire of songs that work perfectly on a theatrical stage. While the words of the first couple of numbers, (including the title track) were lost slightly in the music, the show soon found it’s feet, and some of the songs, including ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’ were really quite spine-tingling.
As well as being really rather handsome, (I encourage you to Google Alex Nee or Thomas Hettrick to confirm this), the leading men were all stonkingly talented. They can sing (really very well, as it happens – no weak notes here), they can dance (to proper choreography) AND they can play the guitar, as demonstrated by all three of them over the course of the performance. The guys are a testament to the bloody spectacular musical talent that the US can turn out, and exemplar of why US X Factor will ALWAYS be better viewing.
The choreography was brilliant, and was coupled with a set that looked bloody good, but was incredibly simple. There was no Lloyd-Webber-esque high-budget trickery here, just a set of steps and some scaffolding. Which was all there needed to be to show case the talent and physical stamina of the ensemble.
As we were walking out of the show my companion and I hit on one of the best things about the show, is that every single cast member looked like they were enjoying themselves when they were on the stage.
They had fun. We had fun. It was fun. Go see it; you’ll have fun too.
Green Day’s American Idiot is at the Hammersmith Apollo, London until 16 December. Tickets can be purchased here.
Words: Andrew Gonsalves
Photo: John Daughtry