By Sebastian Purcell
American Idiot the Musical is a juke box musical by American punk rock band Green Day, which first appeared on Broadway in 2010. The show takes place some time after the events of 9/11, with three thirty-something-year-old mates Johnny (Mat Dwyer), Tunny (John Mondelo) and Will (Ronald MacKinnon) who go about seeking more from their mid-suburban lives. Will is left behind with his pregnant partner Heather (Harmony Thomas-Brown), Tunny joins the army, and Johnny (Will Huang) creates an alter ego St Jimmy as he navigates the big city using women – “whatshername” (Romy Mcilroy) – sex and drugs. The three friends reunite by shows end where it’s ambiguous as to whether any of the characters have experienced any real growth over the past year.
First off, kudos to the band expertly led by musical director Tahra Gannon who brings Green Day’s music to life in spectacular fashion, with at times wall to wall sound. With such big sound, I found that sometimes the cast struggled to compete. In saying that, there were some outstanding performances, including from from Mcilroy (Whatshername) who soars above with such vocal control and emotion in arguably the emotional heart of the show 21 Guns and then again in Letterbomb. Thomas-Brown also shines vocally in her solos and Thomas Martin as Favourite Son showing his amazing acting and singing skills. Hunag as St Jimmy gives an energetic performance both vocally and physically and perhaps has the most dazzling costume of the night in a bright pink leopard suit.
Leads Dwyer, Mondelo and MacKinnon give spirited performances, and clearly share a great connection, immersing themselves into the performance. I found Dwyer most at home with guitar in hand for songs such as Wake me up when September ends and When it’s Time. The ensemble are high energy and you can see all are enjoying themselves, but I did wonder whether the smaller stage of Chapel off Chapel may have limited the choreography at times.
I can see what director Scott Bradley has tried to accomplish, and there are some standout moments. However, I found the source material lacked narrative, as well as light and shade, presents a real challenge where it relies heavily on the audience’s enjoyment of Green Day’s music, falling short of contemporary juke box musicals such as Jagged Little Pill.
On a couple production notes, Yvonne Jin and Felicity Dain’s set design is reminiscent of the last production in Melbourne and the tiered scaffold works well with the band housed inside. Jason Bovaird’s lighting design is ambitious and, early run tech issues aside, adds to the punk-rock-concert-feel.
Fans of Green Day will enjoy the hit after hit that the show offers.
Tickets available Green Day’s American Idiot | Chapel Off Chapel from 9- 26 March. Please note that audiences should consider the course language, mature sex and drug references including self harm. The show is suitable for people aged 16 +.
Photography by Nicole Cleary