American Idiot is one of those shows that I have wanted to see for an age but for one reason or another I didn’t make it….so I was hugely grateful to the Churchill Theatre for the invitation to their Gala night on Thursday 31st March.
American Idiot is a musical which contains songs from the Greenday album of the same name, however this is not a jukebox musical and their rock opera concept album set out to tell a story. The show depicts the post 9/11 youth of American as disillusioned and follows the path of 3 young men. Whilst Johnny and Tunny set out to discover themselves Will is left at home with a pregnant girlfriend. Tunny soon finds it difficult to discover his meaning in the city and enrolls in the US Army and is shipped off to war. Johnny left in the city alone turns to drugs and discovers a part of himself and a friend, St Jimmy, who helps him down the path of near self destruction.
The music clearly comes first with this show, it is loud and unapologetic (as it should be) and all of the cast throw themselves into doing the score justice. All of the cast, without exception, have strong rock vocals and even some of the ensemble when you hear them belt out a line or two (Jemma Geanaus I’m looking at you) you can’t help but feel that the standard is insane if the smaller roles/ensemble have voices like that! The show isn’t all heavy rock vocals and some of the more tender moments of the show were enhanced by the contrast in sound. Slower songs with a more acoustic vibe such as Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Wake Me Up When September Ends and 21 Guns followed on from some of the rockier numbers creating nice moments of reflection within the show.
We also had a number of covers on as Amelia Lily was off sick so Alice Stokoe took on the role of Whatsername, Jonny’s love interest. Karina Hind therefore moved into the role of Extraordinary Girl and Cellen Chugg Jones was on for Tunny. All of them fitted into their respective roles seamlessly. Cellen in particular had a great rock tone and feel to his voice and Karina’s number Extraordinary Girl was one of the highlights of the show for me.
Matt Thorpe as Johnny and Lucas Rush as St Jimmy carry the show brilliantly together. When they were together on stage they just bounced off each other and Rush had a vibe about him that meant I couldn’t take my eyes off him whilst he was on stage, making the idea that he has such a powerful hold over Johnny even more believable.
It may sound odd for me to specifically mention the choreography as American Idiot is not a show that would spring to mind as a dance show but the choreography by Racky Plews was inspired and at times quite twisted but it fitted in perfectly with the grimy setting and it constantly surprised me.
I have to confess that at times I did struggle to understand the nuances of what was happening as I missed some of the lyrics with the band on occasion overpowering some of the vocals. Where the show is nearly all sung through you then miss some important information.
This is not a show for the faint hearted but one that should be seen. If you want a show with poignant commentary on society in an unapologetic bold manner then American Idiot with a cast that have stunning rock vocal abilities then is the show for you.
American Idiot is on Tour until the 2nd July 2016.
If you liked this review then why not check out other reviews such as Blood Brothers and Lord of the Flies both at the Churchill Theatre and my views on who sings Gethsemane the best from another rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar.