Hammersmith Apollo, London
Book by Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer
Lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong
Music by Green Day
Directed by Michael Mayer
|Jenna Rubaii and Thomas Hettrick|
The logo for Green Day’s American Idiot is a clenched fist clutching a hand grenade that has in turn been fashioned from a bleeding heart. No orphaned waifs or green faced witches to depict this show. In what is possibly the most refreshingly intelligent new musical to open in London for some years, Michael Mayer (who also directs) has, in collaboration with Green Day’s creative talent Billie Joe Armstrong, taken the threads from the songs of the American Idiot album and woven a harsh but nonetheless credible and relevant story of America post 9/11.
The show is a refreshing blast of rock opera, painting a grand canvas that charts three disaffected young men, disillusioned with the modern USA. Johnny falls into a drug-fuelled trajectory that almost destroys him, Tunny enlists and goes to fight in the Gulf whilst Will who also succumbs to a dope and drink fuelled life is forced to confront the responsibilities of accidentally becoming a father, a challenge that he ultimately fails to live up to.
Where musical theatre can typically be a land of charmingly talented whimsy, albeit one in which the most challenging of human circumstances may arise, American Idiot is born, not from the pen of a worldy-wise theatrical composer, nor from the saccharine stack of juke-box musicals that flood the commercial stages, but rather from the urgency of one of the most striking rock albums of this time. The music has a pulsing integrity and the book that is portrayed on stage is often harrowing but occasionally uplifting
The performers are all from the the States, which is where this touring company rehearsed the production under the direction of the original Broadway creatives. A six piece band spread across the largely open, but subtly designed stage, provides an authentic sound that replicates Green Day, but be warned: The acoustics of the cavernous Apollo are unforgiving and some of Billy Joe’s finely crafted poetry is at times lost against the wall of sound. If one can attend with some pre knowledge of the songs, it is to be recommended.