Having sold over 75 million albums worldwide, Punk/Rock band Green Day have been the soundtrack to several generations of teenagers lives from 1986 up until today. Their 2004 concept album American Idiot dealt with post 9/11 issues and became one of their most popular, mainstream albums. In 2010 the album was used as the basis for a new Broadway musical titled American Idiot which ran for one year. Between 2011-2014, the show went on an international tour and played around the UK in huge venues like London’s Hammersmith Apollo which felt too big for a theatrical production. Now, a new production of American Idiot has opened in the heart of the West End and is the perfect place for a show like this (holding just 350 people).
The music is undeniably brilliant but that isn’t really a surprise. As with all juke box musicals, the song are hits and that is why they have been used. The question is, how are the songs intertwined into a story? Sadly that is where American Idiot – the musical has always fallen down. The story centres around three friends who go their separate ways. One goes off to the army, one stays at home with his pregnant girlfriend and the other goes on a journey of self discovery but finds drugs and spirals downwards. Following these three separate stories can be confusing and the lyrics to the songs don’t always seem to work along with what is happening. The general press night consensus from people I spoke to after the show was ‘I don’t have a clue what it was about’ which is the issue with this show.
The star attraction of this show is 2011 X Factor finalist Amelia Lily. She looks and sounds great but has a very small role within the show and doesn’t really get a chance to show the audience what she is capable of. Alexis Gerred is good as Tunny who goes off to join the army (and spends the majority of the show with his top off!) and Lucas Rush gives an energetic performance as St Jimmy. The undoubted star of the show is Aaron Sidwell as Johnny. He is hardly off stage during the whole show and bounds around like a schizophrenic monkey. His singing and acting are brilliant and he totally embodies the role he is playing.
If you want a fun night out with friends, a few drinks and to reminisce over songs you may have grown up listening to then American Idiot is the perfect choice. Great music, brilliant singing and actors who give 100% of themselves to the roles they are playing. Choreography is slick and clever, the stage design is detailed and interesting and the whole thing is very well directed. Unfortunately though, for a musical, a strong storyline is incredibly important and American Idiot doesn’t have it. The music is very loud (which is to be expected for Greenday) and vocals are sometimes drowned out making it hard to understand what is being said and making the story even more difficult to follow.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Tristram Kenton
American Idiot is playing at the Arts Theatre until 27 September 2015. Click here for tickets