From the instant the company launches into an opening number that oozes vigour and verve, you can tell this has come straight from Broadway rather than stagnating in the West End first – it’s big, bold and ballsy. With a multi-Tony Award-winning team behind things, it was never likely to be anything but.
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And unlike the vast majority of lame jukebox musicals which theatre-goers have increasingly had to suffer over the last decade, where hits are rounded up and cynically shoe-horned into rambling, nonsensical and intelligence-insulting non-plots, American Idiot! has been adapted directly from a concept album – Green Day’s ambitious effort to create a rock opera in the grand tradition of Tommy and Quadrophenia – which certainly lends some coherence to proceedings; lyrics, melody and tone couple with the storyline, resulting in an infinitely more believable and likeable outcome.
They haven’t skimped on the wow factor either, with multi-level staging, stylish set-pieces and intricate wire work all contributing to what amounts to an unusually lavish touring production. Perhaps most importantly, there’s been no unnecessary attempt to mess around with the familiar songs. Performed live on stage by the band (who look suspiciously like Green Day) with some help from the actors, the score remains largely true to the original – with some allowable exceptions as circumstance dictates.
Telling the tale of friends Johnny, Will and Tunny, it follows the choices made – or forced upon – three disaffected youths struggling to make sense of their world and searching for meaning in our MTV-induced malaise. With a fair old dose of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll thrown in for good measure, naturally. It’s just a pity then that the show fails to generate the emotional depth that premise promises.
The lead characters struggle to be anything other than one-dimensional; especially Will, whose role is criminally underdeveloped, and their personal journeys are hackneyed and all-too-obvious.
That said, it’s entertaining nonetheless. Jam-packed full of spectacle, it’s unlikely any other show gracing the city’s stages this year will be anywhere near as visually or sonically impressive.