On April 20, 2010 American Idiot opened to the public on Broadway. Loosely based around Green Day’s album of the same name the show went on to pick up a handful of awards across the pond, including a Grammy.
So far, so good; although despite the handful of rewards the play received mixed reviews during its 422 performances stateside. Now it’s the turn of the British public to decide if the show gives you the ‘Time of Your Life’ or if we should say ‘Good Riddance’ to this marmite performance.
American Idiot premiered this week at the Southampton Mayflower theatre, quite an achievement for the South Coast venue as on normal occurrence openings such as these are reserved for a Red Carpet rolled over a West End street with Champagne glasses tinkering its arrival.
There was no glitz nor glamour, no surprises or unforgettable memories on the evening itself and sadly we aren’t referring to the lack of lavish hobnobbing nonsense which first nights tend to draw in...Our words relate to the performance itself. The ninety minutes play is concealed in one set, a spectacular set based in ‘Jingletown, USA’ nevertheless, there’s numerous television sets showing clips of Newsreels, front covers of magazines, confectionery...all from America. The set initially represents the home of our three youthful cast members, Tunny, Will and Johnny and similar to most plays its left to the audiences imagination to decipher which scenes are set where, for instance when Johnny takes a trip to the city where he meets a girl who he identifies as ‘Whatsername’, the scene in the club where Johnny, now called ‘St. Jimmy’ as a rebellious move against his unhappy life, takes drugs and has sex with the girl, Tunny being fed up with life so decides to join the army, gets shot and ends up in a hospital ward where he hallucinates and dances around in his undergarments before falling in love with his nurse. All of which are told with support from Green Day tracks.
If all the above sounds confusing, cluttered and comes across as pieces of a unfinished jigsaw with too many pieces to pierce together that is how the play itself comes across. We haven’t even covered the ending which involves Whatsername leaving Johnny, who then kills off ‘St. Jimmy’ and ending up in a job he hates. Oh then there’s Will – remember him? Well he had a baby with his girlfriend Heather earlier on yet annoyed at his laddish behaviour she dumps him so after becoming a mother although turns up later showing off her new squeeze. Will enraged by his replacement goes to the 7-Eleven store where he meets Johnny who has just sold his guitar to buy his ticket home.
Hang on, how about Tunny? He’s now an amputee and returns home with the nurse who is referred to the Extraordinary Girl, which now annoys Johnny and...Well ten or five minutes later they all pick up guitars and sing ‘Time of Your Life.’
As well as the jumbled plot American Idiot suffers by having three core cast members who aren’t members of Green Day yet bear too much resemblance to them. It isn’t until further into the first half until you become acquainted to their individuality.
The story is hard to follow on stage although some support comes from Johnny giving us random diary entries such as his first time he took drugs, deciding if his girl was just a form of lust or something more and remembering the time his mother told him he would amount to nothing; Where American Idiot scores is how the series of most the scenes, such as your first love, spending time with your mates soundtrack the time when Green Day albums were actually the soundtrack to your youthful years.
American Idiot tries to be too clever in parts and sadly doesn’t reach the potential it buries beneath its compact and often lost storyline.
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