Disillusioned and suffocating in a post-9/11 world, American Idiot centres around three friends planning to leave their home in Jingletown USA. Filled with anarchic confidence and searching for a new life, the story follows Johnny, Tunny and Will as they swap the parking lot of the local 7-11 for a life in the city, filled with heavy drug use, unplanned parenting and war-zone PTSD.
It’s certainly not an easy watch, but American Idiot is a story that feels strangely relevant, almost 10 years after its Broadway debut and 15 years since Green Day’s album release in 2004.
Drenched in punk attitudes, liberal views and difficult content, the show isn’t what many would consider to be a family-friendly musical. But with a fantastic score penned by Green Day’s Billy-Joe Armstrong, frenetic performances from the cast, and simply stellar acting, it’s an on-stage experience that I feel grateful to have witnessed in my hometown.
The company of American Idiot was filled with perhaps some of the most multi-skilled actors to perform on the stage at Cheltenham Everyman. Almost every member of the cast could play an instrument, dance passionately, and boy… could they act.
Perhaps the most difficult scene to watch in the entire musical, is one that’s been stuck with me ever since. Tom Milner’s Johnny leads a shockingly raw heroin scene with a realism that made my stomach churn. While watching something so gritty wasn’t pleasant, Milner’s ability as a lone actor to make an entire audience shuffle in their seats with discomfort, is only credit to the calibre of his acting.
Starring alongside Milner were The X Factor stars Sam Lavery as Whatsername, and Luke Friend as St Jimmy. Providing a raspy rock vocal to combine with his eerie stage presence, Friend’s performance was electric; and Lavery’s characterisation of Jonny’s love interest, Whatsername, made her very likeable.
Other notable performances were Joshua Dowen as Tunny, whose memorable voice was a standout; alongside that of the Extraordinary Girl –Raquel Jones, adding some gospel tone to this angry rock-opera.
The incredible on-stage band made Green Day fans proud, translating the band’s iconic album into live audible angst. Their interaction with the storyline even provided some much-needed comic relief.
As a huge Green Day fan, it was fantastic to really hear the lyrics to the songs, and take time to think about their meaning within the context of the story. American Idiot has been a staple of my music collection ever since I used to sneak my discman into maths lessons, but seeing them accompanied by the tale of the ‘Jesus of Suburbia’, brought whole new life to an album I’d been singing along to on autopilot.
By Melissa Hamblett
Thursday 04 July 2019
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