Green Day's American Idiot by SRO Productions
Directed by Chris Patton
Review By H.G.Welch
Green Day's American Idiot is a fast paced and extremely loud rock opera playing now at the Obsidian Theatre. The play is a pure opera, very little of the dialogue is spoken, and the pieces are all Green Day original numbers. The story presented is that of three disaffected youth, each trapped in their own cycle of stagnation and their own tale of redemption. Fans of Green Day will love the performance, those unfamiliar with their works might want to read the synopsis in the program first as some of the events in the show are not clear and only implied in song.
The primary characters are Johnny (Justin White), Tunny (J. T. Fisher), and Will (J. T. Hearn), three youths angry at their stagnant suburban lives and wanting more. Johnny and Tunny set off for the big city with dreams of greatness in their eyes, while Will is forced to stay behind when his girlfriend Heather (the talented Connor Lyon) announces he's going to be a father. Johnny and Tunny arrive to find the city doesn't have the dreams they were looking for and find escapes in heroin for Johnny and the military for Tunny. Johnny finds himself trapped between the girl of his dreams (Ragan Richardson) and the St. Jimmy, the manifestation of his addictions (John Forgy).
Johnny is the primary character with most of the stage time. He is a study in opposites as he is quite self destructive, but possesses the will to turn away from his demons when he has to. Unfortunately his selfishness leaves him the the most damaged of the primary characters. Tunny is the friend that is always talked into things, Johnny talks him into leaving for the city and a recruiter convinces to join the military. He spends most of the play in the hospital recovering from a battle wound. Will doesn't appear much until later in the play where he's shown as being a neglectful father and a terrible boyfriend, still smoking and drinking and not being an active role in his child or his girlfriend's life. After losing everything, he has to make actual decisions to turn his life around.
The musical numbers are well rehearsed and choreographed, every one is on cue and the the band doesn't miss a beat. Several numbers are pure eye candy, especially Favorite Sun for the ladies. Some of the memorable numbers are Give Me Novacaine with three separate scenes interwoven into a single piece, the demonic and soul crushing ode to addiction Know Your Enemy, and the sublime and slow motion Boulevard of Broken Dreams. In the end the cast sends off the audience with Time of Your Life, invoking Shakespeare's chorus from Henry V beseeching the audience to remember the good about the play.
White does a fine job as Johnny, he is no stranger to the spotlight and once again shows he can perform at center stage without err. Fisher is decent as the impressionist Tunny, though his voice is often drowned out by the music. Hearn spends much of the play literally on the sideline, with almost all his numbers as duets with Lyon. His one character focused number, Too Much Too Soon, is one of the more memorable routines. Lyon is excellent as the put upon Heather, but her character is a supporting character with little time. Richardson has several moments to shine as Johnny's unnamed girlfriend, and she is one of the few in the play you truly feel sorry for. Forgy oozes evil as the drug dealing Jimmy, though its unclear if he's an actual dealer or a figment of Johnny's imagination. The ensemble holds up well, able to carry solos as needed.
In the end the play holds up, it is a classic story of tragic heroes thinking the grass is greener on the other side, only to discover the flaws are within them. Fans of alternative rock will be thrilled, the action is mere feet from them. The play flows quickly, there is no intermission. It is literally one song after another with little pause and vulgarity throughout. There are no bathroom breaks, so be warned. It was almost standing room only, so get your tickets early and arrive early as parking is always an issue.
Green Day's American Idiot is directed by Chris Patton and runs through October 31st at Obsidian Theatre 3522 White Oak. Tickets are $25 at the door.