Green Day's American Idiot - The Musical - Hammersmith Apollo
“Don’t wanna be an American Idiot!” whines the Billie Joe Armstrong lookalike to a bemused and slightly chilly London audience. TMF’s expectations for the theatrical adaptation of Green Day’s 2004 rock operatic odyssey are mixed - just like the audience in fact. Mohican-adorned punks rub shoulders with 13 year old emos-in-training with parents in tow, whilst confused looking OAP’s overdressed for the theatre search for their seats. It may not be the best of times for Billie Joe on a personal level, but business-wise, things seem to be ticking over quite nicely, thank-you-very-much.
Despite a juddering, cringe-worthy opening and the horror of the cast's painted-on tattoos, once the production picks up steam, the cheese-factor diminishes a little and you're soon caught up in the thrill of the ride. Story-wise, American Idiot pieces together the story of three young men on the cusp of adulthood, following their chaotic life decisions, minus the usual shine of a happy ending. It’s tragic yet uplifting, with at least an attempt at some gravity in among the one liners (and too many middle fingers to count). Put aside the stereotypical headbanging choreography, constant air guitar sessions and gag-inducing horn-throwing hands, and you realise you’re actually probably having more fun than you intended. Embrace the clichés, even embrace the Avril Lavigne lookie-likies and you’ll find yourself at the heart of a musical circus. It's not punk rock, it's showbiz - but when did Green Day pretend to be anything else?
St. Jimmy, played by Trent Saunders steals the show throughout with his believable snarling punk rock attitude and energy as he launches himself across the stage repeatedly like a heroin-fuelled firework. Playing the drug-addled alter-ego of main protagonist Johnny (Alex Nee), he spits the chorus to his self titled anthem, ‘St Jimmy’, catching all the attention despite the fact that Nee puts in a solid shift. The three female leads are also strong characters, contrasting heavily against their downward-spiralling male counterparts.
Guilty pleasures aside, American Idiot lacks the poignant political commentary which runs throughout the parental album, only loosely touching upon the traumas of war which the LP had coursing through its very veins. Even the impressive, acrobatic appearance of a burka-clad angel suspended 30 feet in the air lacks a little impact, thanks to the meaningless love ode ‘Extraordinary Girl’ backing the visuals.
All in all, American Idiot is entertaining, if not particularly deep. The singing is strong and the live band are tight enough to be mistaken for Green Day themselves without apeing every mannerism. This feels like a victory lap for a juggernaut of an album, underlining the fact that Green Day are unlikely to replicate such a career high again.