American Idiot: The Musical 6.5.12

June 5, 2012

Rock Opera is a term thrown around a lot in the annals of rock lore. Think Pink floyd's The Wall, or The Who's Tommy, hell even The Beatles Sgt. Pepper falls in the category I'd say. Back in 2004, Green Day decided to tack their name on the wall w/ the aptly angsty, timely titled America n Idiot (think back to the state of american politics of the era, Bush administration, Iraq war, etc...). The thing about most of these albums however, is they remain just that, loosely constructed cohesive ideas that translate well on record when you're left to fill in the blanks, and come of f un and epic live when the band cranks out each tune in the order you've become so fond of (unless you're a track skipper.)

HOWEVER, that doesn't necessarily mean it's the best Idea to attempt to translate into a full on opera (in this case, stage musical).  I wasn 't sure what to expect from the show going into it, but upon curtain up, I can tell you it wasn't this. Think Rent (the musical) goes industrial, slap some Nirvana stickers on it, and spike it's hair.  It takes about 5 minutes before we get to the dialogue and my extreme discomfort begins. I took my mother to the show, she's a big Green Day fan and an avid lover of musicals, but when the 10th line in the show is about your "stepdad, you know, that literal motherfucker) things get... a little strange. Initially I brushed it off as out of the gate shock value, but the thin dialog which relied heavily on the word "Fuck" for... some sort of dramatic edginess (though it came off more cheap and desperate) only continued throughout the night. Everyone around seemed similarly unsure of what to do. The tracks that translate well into arena anthems, were watered down to the point of venomlessness, while the added harmonies and alternate arrangements fell short as well, almost detracting from the originals.

To the shows credit, if you're anywhere from 11-18 you probably thought the thing was incredibly relatable, awesome, edgy, cool, maybe it even turned you onto musical theater in a way. I actually asked our winners what they thought of the show, being huge Green Day fans themselves and this being their first musical ever, and they absolutely loved it. Which goes to show it all depends on where you're coming from. As someone with a background in musical theater, that's moved passed the angst phase and remains (aside from radio hits) largely unfamiliar with the body of work, to me it was tough. But if you go in as a Green Day fan, maybe that's what it takes to really connect with the message.

For me that was a huge issue though was that, if you weren't familiar with the premise of the story it was, quite tough to follow. 3 Main characters, I think attempting to show that no matter what route you take were destined to fail due to the system they were raised in, ultimately finding that happiness lies right at home where you left it...But there was a lot of random stuff that just seemed, thrown in there for the sake of filling time. At one point in some hospital dream, two characters begin flying through the air, at which point I turned to my mom and asked "uh... what's going on?" to which she replied "I have absolutely no idea". Similarly the Heroin shooting/sex having scene was a bit... much. Now I'm not conservative, and all for pushing the boundaries of art, but this all felt too familiar to the sort of adolescent statements you tried to convince your film teacher in high school were a good idea, much more about doing it just for the sake of doing it, than truly using taste and artistic poignancy.

In summation, don't bring your mom. If you're a Green Day fan it's probably worth checking out to see one of your favorite albums come to life. HOWEVER, if you're expecting a mind blowing musical theater experience, maybe stick to the classics or check out The Book Of Mormon (created by the South Park guys) later this season.