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Theater Review: American Idiot

photo1American Idiot

Book: Billy Joe Armstrong
Composer: Billy Joe Armstrong
Arranger: Tom Kitt
Director: Michael Mayer
Costume Design: Andrea Lauer
Scenic Design: Christine Joes
Lighting Design: Kevin Adams
Sound Design: Brian Ronan
Featuring: Alex Nee, Trent Saunders, Casey O’Farrell, Thomas Hettrick, Alyssa DiPalma, Jenna Rubaii and Kennedy Caughell

Broadway In Chicago’s American Idiot is is a viscerally electric and loudly enthusiastic experience and tour proves that it ain’t broke so…

With today’s theatre-going public, seems audiences are more inclined to go for re-makes and re-mounts than something original but that doesn’t always have to prove a bad thing. Case in point, the current tour of American Idiot which recently has taken up a small residency at the Cadillac Palace Theatre.  While the project’s overriding umbrella is now a non-equity tour and the set pieces are generally the exact same as what was on display during last year’s larger and more publicized tour, the production overall has trimmed some of its fat and gained a few positives.

Photo2In case you aren’t familiar with the story of American Idiot – the show and plot come from a loosely-threaded book put together around the 2004 Green Day album with the same name. Three childhood friends, each searching for meaning in a post 9-11 World wish to escape their realities by breaking out of their insular community – American Idiot is a character-driven story with sensory overload about youth and the life choices we make. The entire project really is a great fit as Green Day’s songs, already with a penchant for the theatrical & emotional stakes, fit together well with Michael Mayer’s (original Director/Co-Writer) formulation of what could really be dealt within the span of a 90 min. show. The result is an enthusiastically bombastic and visceral experience that has the power to move audiences.

Photo3Now in its fourth iteration, the current tour of American Idiot feels a little worn in production – choreography performed wrote by most cast members, transitions fluid to the point of empathy – but still the production looks and feels fresh, gritty and exciting thanks to the casting choices of younger performers . Unlike some of the previous casts which have come and gone, the current cast state feels just at the age that many of the Actors are actually at the age of the shows’ characters; yes, we do lose some of the depth needed but for what we lack, Idiot has made up for in intensity. Primarily, Thomas Hettrick who pulls out a damaged and fragile war-torn Tunny, Alyssa DiPalma hits some wonderful moments of rage and vitriol in the Whatshername role and for once we get a welcomed masculine turn in the St. Jimmy role from Trent Saunders. For much of the rest of the cast, we get a nice, strong and talented performance but nothing quite as deep as what we have been given in previous tours;  we can chalk that up to simple experience.

Overall, American Idiot still has something for everyone. A set that is rich in textures, bold in shading and entrancing to watch all on its own, a distinctive story and book that contains pure heart, motivation and angst, incredibly powerful and moving music and an overall production value of energy and cynicism. For those wishing to see the show for the first time, this current tour is a worthy comparison and very entertaining; for those looking for additional viewings, this show isn’t going to bring any new revelations but it still will be a wonderful evening at the theater.

Overall Rating: Recommended

When: Through Feb. 19
Where: Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St.
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Tickets: $27-$95 at 800-775-2000 or broadwayinchicago.com

~ Matt Miles, 24/7 Contributor
Producer of Fresh Roasted Films 


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