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Greater London
posted/updated: 15 May 2019 -
American Idiot - ★★★
Music by Green Day. Lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong. Book by Billie Joe Armstrong & Michael Mayer. Produced by Selladoor Prods. Piu Ents. & Gavin Kalin Prods.
society/company: New Wimbledon Theatre (professional) (directory)
performance date: 14 May 2019
venue: New Wimbledon Theatre
reviewer/s: Paul Johnson (Sardines review)


Photo: Mark Dawson Photography

★★★

Next year marks the tenth anniversary since Green Day’s punk rock musical, American Idiot, first opened on Broadway. The show has also now played in at least a dozen locations around the world including the West End – twice, first opening in 2015. Back then, the sung-through musical only lasted throughout a single act (so I’ve been told). However, now, still under Selladoor Productions and once more directed & choreographed by Racky Plews, the show has been expanded into a full-length musical featuring over twenty numbers from the band, Green Day.

For a sung-through musical it’s a shame that the sheer volume of the music makes it virtually impossible to hear Billie Joe Armstrong’s lyrics which, in turn makes you only able to guess at the story is being played out onstage. Similar to Hair, which came through the same theatre in Wimbledon not too long ago, American Idiot is based around a group of friends disenchanted and feeling separated from the establishment. Swap hippies with punks and shrink the large commune of Hair down to just three, and you have the trio of Johnny, Will and Tunny who set out to change the status quo.

All doesn’t go according to plan as Will’s girlfriend, Heather, falls pregnant which results in one third of the group staying behind to raise his family. Johnny heads off on a drug-fuelled downward spiral which sees him meet a girl, Whatsername, whom he forms a relationship with, and a guy, St Jimmy, whom succumbs to the fatal and inevitable end that a life on drugs pulls you towards. Meanwhile Tunny joins the military where he is injured and confined to a wheelchair.

In the end the trio reunite back in the town where they started, which begs the question ‘what was the point of all that?’ The answer still eludes me I’m afraid. The show undoubtedly has an audience but I’m not convinced of its broad appeal, and I think American Idiot’s lastability and longevity in any one venue will always be limited to the pure energy and draw of the excellent music and how well the high-quality cast deliver the numbers. It won’t be the story – or the appeal of Sara Perks ‘filthy’ set design which, I fear, The Young ones might have even complained about.

On this tour, the three headliners all either made themselves known on The Voice or X Factor which is a stark reminder of where today’s producers see the industry and how to solve the problem of putting bums on seats. In the next issue of Sardines, Summer Strallen expresses her concerns over the lack of leading roles available for fully trained leading performers. You might see her point… the power of television!

American Idiot plays at New Wimbledon Theatre until Saturday, 18th May before continuing on its tour.

More at: www.americanidiotthemusical.co.uk 

Photo: Mark Dawson Photography









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