Review: American Idiot is a Guilty Pleasure

Good news for diehard Green Day fans that have been quietly brooding for the past ten years: American Idiot, the sung-through punk rock musical, opened last night at Centennial Theatre. The production, put on by URP, is an hour and a half of uninterrupted angst punctuated with sex, drugs, and guttural screaming.

American Idiot has almost no dialogue; the characters move from song to song with barely a pause. Unlike musicals that were born from a story and told through music, this show’s music came first (read: the music doesn’t tell the story in the way more traditional musicals do).  The audience is left to interpret the plot almost solely through visuals.

And visuals there are. The show is a sort of coming-of-age story for three teenage boys, and the plot seems a lot like something three teenage boys might write (What if you joined the army? What if you became an alcoholic? What if you started shooting heroin? What if all the women in our lives only existed to develop our own characters?) It’s a fever dream of manhood teeming with shameless drama outrageous angst.

So the musical itself is not particularly rich in depth or nuance—or is it? Pre-show, the audience was welcomed to their seats by a compilation of videos of Donald Trump. The videos cut together, splitting over and over again until the screen was a mob of angry orange presidents spouting an overlapping assortment of nonsense. American Idiot, indeed.

The show opens, fittingly, with “American Idiot,” the ensemble storming the stage all their denimed, leathered, and eyelinered glory. There’s stomping, screaming, and head-banging galore. It’s hard to believe that this energy could be sustained for an entire performance, but somehow, it is. The spirit of the show is contagious; you could see various other head-bangers kicking it in the audience.

The dancing is a raucous blast and the vocals are angry and strained at times, but that only greater served the genre. Tanner Ford as Will was particularly awesome, with rich vocals, soulful style and an engaging but not overwhelming presence (he’s on stage, though not in the spotlight, for literally the entire show). Given that the three leads (and all of Green Day) are guys, it’s not surprising that the men have the most presence in the show. The first few lines of “21 Guns,” sung by Jenaya Barker (Extraordinary Girl), Erin Palm (Heather) and Ali Watson (Whatsername) was such a treat for the ears. I want to see their musical.

Final shoutout to Nicco Del Rio, the ensemblist who looked like he was being electrocuted throughout the performance (a compliment, trust me). In a rabble of angry punks, he’s a firecracker.

American Idiot plays at the Centennial Theatre now through November 10 at 8:00 p.m. You can find tickets here.