You can also check out more details about the show in my write up for CBS LA: Best of.
It was 1994. I was 15 and thought the world sucked. I wore plaid shirts, long hair, very straight hair, with no makeup and didn’t talk my family at all. The only things I identified with were my friends (who wore the same plaid) and alternative/punk music. I was introduced to Green Day by some boy (whose name I can’t remember now, but he was cute- that’s what matters at that age right?) via mix tape…and I immediately bought anything that I could find of theirs, which at the time was 2 indie albums (1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours and Kerplunk!) and a new one called Dookie. It sounds dramatic to say but their words reflected me at that age, and when American Idiot was released in 2004, I had that exact same reaction to how it had my 20 something feelings penned as a rock song.
American Idiot the album was released in a time of political angst. A time where us solemn kids of the 90′s grew up and became lost adults of the 2000′s. It was fabulous. In 2009, I heard that they had decided to make American Idiot into a Broadway musical. Now my theater roots cheered cause I mean, one of my favorite bands was going to Broadway… but those same theater roots wondered if someone could really bring that albums original message to Broadway and not only make it shine, but have theater lovers everywhere understanding punk rock and to really feel it.
As it turns out, they did!
I went to see this not knowing much more than the actual songs on the 2004 album. I wanted a fresh take, not some idea in my head of what it should be. I’ll be honest and say at the beginning I was a little lost. Besides the fact that the music was fantastic, I wasn’t following the story. It was mostly lyrics- with a few sentences spoken here and there. The characters had to come alive through song. I think the story all clicked, for me anyway, around the 3rd song, and when it did click- it was more like a BANG! Suddenly I was sucked into this world, a world I actually lived through myself at that time. It was loud, gritty and powerful. It made you uncomfortable, and sad as you watched Johnny become an addict. You felt for Tunny when he was in the hospital and you shook your head as Will desperately tried to cling to his girlfriend as she leaves him.
The talent in this show is unbelievable, while the three male leads- Johnny (Van Hughes), Will (Jake Epstein) and Tunny (Scott J. Campbell) definitely had chops, it was the women that soared. They were strong, and fierce and I think my jaw dropped at times. Gabrielle McClinton, who plays Whatserface, Johnny’s girlfriend, was amazing. Her haunting and sweet vocals at the beginning of 21 Guns as she tries to convince Johnny to stop doing drugs was just incredible.
American Idiot is not for the faint of heart. It moves fast, and has very explicit scenes dealing with drugs and sex. If you are looking for RENT- keep looking, Idiot is much grittier. Where RENT’s message was uplifting, American Idiot’s message is about accepting a place somewhere between rage and love, and with that acceptance, comes hope. Which the cast finds, and you see when the curtain raises to the entire company with guitars in hand, to the perform “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”.
For tickets, visit: http://www.centertheatregroup.org/tickets/reserve.aspx?ProductionID=8161 or call (213) 628-6772. Lottery tickets are also available for $30/pair of orchestra seats, registration begins when box office opens daily.
Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.