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Review: Green Day's American Idiot

Music

With thrashing riffs and a story of isolated upheaval in a time of mass-confusion, rock musical Green Day’s American Idiot rouses its audience in more ways than one.

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You know that buzz in the air when the lights dim at the beginning of a concert? It could be felt at Her Majesty’s Theatre on Saturday night, heard as audience members yelped and whistled for Green Day’s “American Idiot”. And since the opening song was “American Idiot”, expectations were met – and the bar kept rising.

Green Day is jumpy – even their slower songs have thrashing riffs – so the energy in the theatre was always on. And in this political climate, it should be.

The pop-punk concept album American Idiot was a response to George W Bush’s post-9/11 America, and this Australian adaptation of the 2010 Broadway musical is set in a media-driven Trumpian world.

Three young musicians plan to leave home and find their way playing music, but Will can’t leave behind his newly pregnant girlfriend, Tunny ends up joining the army, and Johnny falls head-first into love and hard-core into drugs. Nothing works, it’s all fucked, and suddenly “Wake Me Up When September Ends” has me crying.

Disclaimer: I’m an American-Australian currently writing a novel about US gun massacres, so perhaps it’s an emotional exaggeration of a perfect storm, but don’t most fans of that song feel sad when it’s on the radio because it captures a time when the world was at its direst… until now… until the next time?

Directed by Craig Ilott, American Idiot narrates a story of isolated upheaval in a time of mass-confusion; it examines how separated people feel when things fall apart. So there I was, bopping my head and tapping my fingers, thinking quite solemnly about how far off track we’ve gotten as a society, and really, isn’t this what punk rock sets out to do? Job well-done, theatre-makers.

Green Day’s American Idiot at Her Majesty’s Theatre. Photo: Emma Brasier

The cast may not be very punk rock themselves, but Adalita, from the alternative-rock band Magic Dirt, brings a much-needed balance and realism to the stage as St Jimmy, Johnny’s alter-ego, a sneering pusher of debauchery and destitution. She owned the stage, and Grinspoon’s Phil Jamieson will aim to do the same in the final shows at Her Majesty’s.

Note to all you theatre-goers: do not go to American Idiot if you want a musical that leaves you fully satisfied but rather sleepy after an hour and a half of art. This one wakes you up.

Green Day’s American Idiot is playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre until January 28.

Read InDaily’s interview with American Idiot’s Australian executive producer Nick Skubij here

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