American Idiot: The Musical at the Hammersmith Apollo
Punk rock gets a glee-ful in Green Day’s American Idiot: The Musical, now being performed at The Hammersmith Apollo.
It has been almost impossible to miss the 25-year long career of Green Day. The band’s controversial messages and massive commercial success, has led to thousands of teenagers through the last quarter of a century to rebel against political and social injustice. Or as Billy Joe Armstrong, lead of Green Day and co-writer of the hit musical, puts it: “to battle your way out of your own ignorance”.
American Idiot: The Musical tells the story of three young men who are discontented with their TV orientated suburban lives, and plan to set themselves on the road to excitement, rebellion and hopefully, stardom. At every stage, however, there are obstacles that prevent Will, Tunny and Jimmy from achieving their dreams. Teen pregnancy, army enlistment and drug addiction are at the centre of their problems, portrayed to the audience through the hit songs – Wake Me Up When September Ends, Holiday, Boulevard of Broken Dreams and, of course, American Idiot.
With strong drug references and such raw issues as the repercussions of 9/11, it might seem like a strange conflict of interests to turn these undeniably controversial subjects into musical. It is. The power of the cast’s phenomenal vocal capabilities through rounds, harmonies and some crazy solos are reminiscent of the American “Glee Groups”. This juxtaposed with a short but criminally unmoving portrayal of a war-wounded soldier’s hallucinations, did at times make some very unconvincing theatre. However, this does not automatically make American Idiot: The Musical unsuccessful in its portrayal of teenage angst and the falsities of the American Dream.
Not discounting the awards that American Idiot: The Musical has received for set and lighting – which are, by the way, fantastic – there is originality and above all, empathy for the characters in this production. In the same way that the band, Green Day, gripped the attention of the hopes and disillusionments of young people across Europe, the musical captures their struggle to understand the “real” world through rebellion and the testing of a “dysfunctional” society.
Alex Nee and cast perform with strength and talent in a piece of controversial musical theatre that will inspire you to think that head-moshing, at whatever age, looks cool. American Idiot: The Musical provides the audience with an experience that demands a reaction, and then challenges it.
Photos: John Daughtry