Audiences rock out with “Green Day’s American Idiot”

Put the performance quality of a Broadway musical with a smaller overall production, and you get the U’s version of “American Idiot.”

“Green Day’s American Idiot” came out in 2004. The album was a smash hit and not only helped rejuvenate Green Day’s career, but it also helped bring rock music back into the mainstream. The album contains popular hits such as “Holiday” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” It was adapted by director Michael Mayer in 2009 into a musical and received three Tony Award nominations and a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album.

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“American Idiot” tells the story of Johnny and Tunny (Austin John Smith and Dominic Zappala) fleeing suburban lives while their friend, Will, (John Yerke) stays behind with his pregnant girlfriend (Liz Terry). Tunny eventually joins the army, and Johnny is left on his own to figure out what the meaning of life is, while meeting a beautiful woman called “Whatsername” (Madi Cooper) along the way. The middle-class, war, love and drugs are constant themes throughout the musical, and have great impact on the characters. Most of the musical contains very little dialogue, and that’s because it needs little of it. The songs themselves tell an excellent story although this makes it more important for the audience to listen to the lyrics.

Sarcastic, profane, funny, over the top, full of energy and thought-provoking, this musical is undoubtedly a classic. Although possibly confused at some moments, the audience is never bored. Be it the acting, the music or the lighting onstage, there’s something that every audience member will appreciate.

The music closely resembles the original version with a few bits added for a dramatic effect. While it seems that the music would be difficult to dance to (besides moshing) the choreography is well synced to the music. “Know Your Enemy” and “21 Guns” (from 2009’s “21st Century Breakdown”) are sprinkled in, and definitively add to the story. Two older Green Day songs (“Favorite Son” and “Too Much Too Soon”) also make an appearance. The musicians even have a small string ensemble to add tension to the music when needed. It would be easy to mistake this for an actual concert with the cast encouraging the audience to sing along.


In an interesting choice, the U’s production decided to cast Megan Shenefelt as St. Jimmy (“a city badass”). In the lyrics, it clearly states that Jimmy is male, as was the character in the Broadway production. Not to spoil it, but it makes more sense that Jimmy is male when a major plot twist is revealed in the climax of the musical during the “Homecoming” medley. Still, Shenefelt gives a fantastic performance.

For those that missed the Broadway version of the musical when it came to the U in 2013, this is the next best thing, and its resemblance to the real thing is uncanny. Perhaps the best part is that students don’t have to pay $100 to see it; they get in for free with their UCard. There are 7:30 p.m. performances Sept. 18-20 and 24-26 with additional 2 p.m. matinees Sept. 19, 20, 26 and 27. All performances are held in the Hayes Christensen Theatre at the Marriott Center for Dance.

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