Fifteen years since the album release and ten years since their first show on Broadway, Green Day’s hit rock musical American Idiot returns for an anniversary tour. This performance at Liverpool’s Playhouse Theatre certainly packed a punch, mainly thanks to the quality of the music from the Grammy award-winning album of the same name.
American Idiot, by Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer, tells the tale of three boyhood friends coming to terms with the shocking aftermath of 9/11. The show tackles themes of drug addiction, relationships and senses of purpose and duty in life, all conveyed through iconic Green Day hits.
Tom Milner (Waterloo Road and The Voice) really comes to life as the gritty punk lead character Johnny. His characterisation and vocals were a great reflection of Green Day’s lead singer. If you closed your eyes, you may well think you were listening to Billie Joe Armstrong himself. His acting kept the audience intrigued and he really shone throughout, especially during a specific junkie scene which really brought contrast along his character’s journey. This was a real stand-out performance.
Luke Friend (X Factor) delivered a good concept for a menacing version of alter ego St Jimmy but, although his characterisation and stage presence was good, it was let down by his poor diction throughout every song. If I wasn’t already familiar with the lyrics, I would have struggled to know what they were about. I feel this was due to his singing style. Although good, he was lost amongst the loud volume of the band. Joshua Dowen gave an emotional portrayal of Tunny and was really able to translate his devastation to the audience. His morphine dream scene during the Before the Lobotomy/Extraordinary Girl mash up was a stand-out, as his emotive acting made the lyrics believable and engaging.
Samuel Pope gave a strong vocal performance as Will, a stoner who realises his lifestyle and responsibilities don’t make a good combination. I feel like Samuel’s acting was a bit overlooked during this performance mainly because Will’s story mostly takes a back seat to Johnny and Tunny’s transformational journeys. There were also times where some of his reactions were a bit lacklustre.
Sam Lavery (X Factor) as Whatshername brought her powerful vocals and really wowed the audience with her range. Her character’s lack of dialogue didn’t hold her back from conveying emotion during more abstract scenes. This production was visually stunning with its mixture of rustic set design (Sara Perks) and energetic lighting (Tim Deiling). The use of set and lighting really gave a different visual experience for each song, especially during movement segments which could easily be present in a Green Day video. The cast ensemble taking over the stage with their head banging and air guitar strums was a treat to see. Racky Plews’ direction ensured that the transitions between conventional choreography and a more chaotic take really complemented the anarchic feel of the songs.
As far as the story goes, those unfamiliar with the album lyrics may find it hard to follow at times as the story telling takes a more abstract approach. The songs come thick and fast with no sign of a breather so I can understand why some people could find it hard to process what is happening.
All in all, for someone who is looking for a great rock opera this certainly fits the bill. This whole production is a fantastic treat for any Green Day fan to lap up with amazing lyrics and a hint of nostalgia. You certainly get your money’s worth of song content. Even non-Green Day fans would enjoy rocking out to this for a great night at the theatre.
Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good