Punk band Green Day released the groundbreaking album American Idiot in 2004 to huge sales and worldwide acclaim, listening to the album it was very clear that a story was created with characters and situations, the album had a narrative, something to say. So it was not surprising when a new rock/punk musical based around the album (and the follow up) was announced for Broadway, what is surprising however is the end result, in the simplest of terms American Idiot the Musical is one of the most important musicals of the last decade and by far one of the best.
The musical tells the story of 3 friends who long to escape the grips of suburbia to head to the big city to find their voice in a country that is not listening to them. Whilst 2 of the boys make the move one stays at home with his pregnant girlfriend, what follows is a journey of self discovery, love, loss, doubt, fear and understanding.
American Idiot has very few spoken moments and is nearly all sung throughout, some critics have complained that the book is weak, but that is simply missing the point. The book is present in every lyric, every gesture and every movement. This is not about a story in the conventional sense of the word, it's about the anger and the frustration the youth feel at not knowing where they belong in a post 9/11 world. Their journey is not a physical one, it's an emotional one, and this is where American Idiot excels above any musical of the past 10 years.... maybe longer.
Green Day's music is perfection, pulsating with energy and passion, it has something to say without announcing it has something to say like most musicals. Song after song it delivers, it's not musical theatre punk or rock like Rent or at times over theatrical rock like Tommy, it's raw, real and grabs you by the throat. If this was an original score before the concept album it would have been one of the greatest modern rock/punk scores of our time for the stage.... in fact it still is. 21 Guns is written with more passion than any recent musical theatre song and the title song along with Holiday, Boulevard of Broken Dreams and Letterbomb are simply thrilling. The music never misses a beat and with Tom Kitts orchestrations for the show it slides in to a theatre genre without losing its edge.
Direction by Michael Mayer compliments the score, it's bold but simple and at other times erratic and loud, all perfect choices for this material, it's very clear he has an excellent understanding of what Green Day wanted to say. The album was a voice to all those who were frustrated during the Bush presidency, but in reality you could switch in and out any president and still get the same effect as youth will always feel unheard. Mayer understands this and alongside Steven Hoggetts' choreography they create the voice that the characters in this piece are so desperately looking for. The slightly altered (from Broadway) set design by Christine Jones with its stacked TV sets, dirty walls and scaffold walkways also compliment the raw feel of the show along with some fantastic projections and imagery.
The US cast are a revelation, after seeing the Broadway production with the likes of John Gallagher Jnr.in I never thought they could be topped, I was wrong. This dazzling cast give every ounce of their bodies and souls over to this piece. Vocally they are incredible adding even more layers to the already intricate score. Alex Nee, Thomas Hettrick and Casey O'Farrell are superb as the three best friends Johnny, Tunny and Will, Nee especially is mesmerising and authentic in his portrayal. Alyssa DiPalma nearly blew the roof of the theatre with her voice in songs like Letterbomb and Trent Saunders owned the stage as St Jimmy. However the whole cast from leads to ensemble deserve a mention, this is by far one of the best cast's in a musical I have seen in some time. The band led by Evan Jay Newman also deliver in a big way, electrifying the theatre.