Saw “American Idiot” on Friday night. Basically a Green Day opera. (see the review by NY Times’ Charles Isherwood).
Johnny (played by Van Hughes) is a clueless young man in suburbia in the post 9/11 world. His friends, Will (played by Justin Guarini – yes, that Justin Guarini of American Idol fame) and Tunny (played by David Larsen), are supposed to join him in the city, where they either chase their dreams (as they hope) or continue their lethargic and meaningless lives (as it might actually turn out to be).
Will, however, is stuck in suburbia, having gotten his girlfriend pregnant (and, staying behind doesn’t mean he’s actually being responsible, as Heather the girlfriend, played by Jenna De Waal, learns the hard way). Tunny couldn’t hack it in the city, and joins the army – and finds that Iraq ain’t what it was cracked up to be. And, Johnny – well, let’s just say that you can’t just go to the city without some real thought about you’re doing there.
Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong is in the cast as St. Jimmy (see the Jan. 2011 commentary by NY Times’ Charles Isherwood on that). St. Jimmy is either an actual drug pusher, who’s destroying Johnny, or else he’s the figment in Johnny’s mind – Johnny’s own alter ego preventing him from pursuing a real life. Either way, Billie Joe had some pretty good sinister humor.
I thought that Tunny’s story was powerfully poignant, even if it is the typical story of the military guy who got into something way over his head and then redeemed by (what else?) the power of love (but, if you think about it, that adventure in the army gave Tunny specifically something far more than what the dystopia of suburbia ever did). I’ll concede that I probably enjoyed Tunny’s story because the actor, David Larsen, was kind of cute, nicely portrayed his character’s sadness, and had such a great voice – and he had a nice chemistry with the Extraordinary Girl, played by Libby Winters, the army nurse who helps Tunny get some mojo back.
Justin Guarini was pretty good (then again, as much derision that poor guy got in the after effects of season 1 of American Idol, I always thought that Broadway would have been more his thing than anything else in the mad world of pop music).
Rebecca Naomi Jones as WhatsHerName (the girl who was Johnny’s lost love – lost because he couldn’t keep her and she wasn’t going to stick with him and his pointlessness) was terrific with her energy and tragedy. If anything, I kind of thought that the stories of the women got lost (and Extraordinary Girl was more a symbol than an actual character). The rest of the cast were quite talented (Joshua Henry as the guy who attracts Tunny into the army was ridiculously charismatic; maybe that was why Tunny ended up in the army), and I liked that the cast came in various shapes and sizes.
The stories of the three guys might be thin (well, it is a musical – musicals do get thin on plot) and the musical was otherwise was a nice reminder that the Green Day album, “American Idiot” was a pretty good album (while trying to be a show, not a concert). And, the musical does make you wonder about this generation – my generation? – and whether it’ll actually do something good in this world.
Go ahead and see if you catch “American Idiot” before it closes. Decently entertaining (even if it isn’t the greatest pop musical on Broadway, not with the way the women got lost as they did. The great pop musical might actually be… “The Book of Mormon,” at the moment, which I haven’t seen, but the hype seems pretty real…).