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American Idiot – National Tour

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Lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong

Book by Billie Joe Armstrong

& Micheal Mayer

Choreographer Steven Hoggett

Directed by Michael Mayer

Music Director Jared Stein

Produced by Broadway in Chicago

At the Oriental Theatre, Chicago

Noisy and unintelligible punk rock musical is really a rock concert

I must do my homework before seeing another punk rock infused musical. The deafing sound was so loud that I was worried that my pacemaker might go off! I guess  punk rock necessitates that the volume be set into the stratosphere? Add the slurred Broadway pop singing style and I could only understand a word here and there. Was there a story?

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The press notes claim that American Idiot is a book musical:  “three lifelong friends Johnny (Van Hughes), Will (Jake Epstein), and Tunny (Scott J. Campbell) are forced to choose between their dreams and suburban life on their quest for true meaning. The three friends have the opportunity to leave their current world and move to the big city to follow their dreams. However, the unexpected keeps one at home while the other two move away. Johnny and Tunny then go their separate ways. Tunny joins the military and Johnny, he gets caught up in the fast lane.”

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I guess? Since I couldn’t understand the lyrics, I had no idea what was going on except for one continuous punk rock tune after another so loud that I couldn’t hear myself think!

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I am perplexed as to the merit of such a manic, unintelligible crude show about three losers who spent their time doing drugs, have sex and hanging around. I must say that many older theatre people continuously left the one-act as the lack of a story and high volume forced their departure.  I think the billing of American Idiot as a book musical (it ran only 422 performances on Broadway) is somewhat deceiving since it is so difficult to follow. Volume and slurred lyrics add to the lack of comprehension for many. My guest, who loves the Green Day band, found the lack of understandable story and the high octane sound a major problem that diluted from his enjoyment of the show. So, who is the audience for American Idiot? Lovers of punk rock and Green Day? If so, why not promote American Idiot as a punk rock concert? That way, us lovers of traditional book musicals will not have to suffer through 90 minutes of theatre hell. It is more than 3 hours after attending American Idiot and I still can’t stop that ringing in my ears.  So, don’t expect more than a ear-shattering punk rock musical with crude, foul-mouthed players with limited vocal chops. The high energy and wild dances and the strobe lighting will get you groggy with deafness to follow.

The young punk rockers will feast on the Green Day tunes and the old-timers will cringe and vacate the show. Be warned. Next time, I’ll send my younger reviewers to cover this genre.

Somewhat Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: February 7, 2012

Fro more info checkout the American Idiot page on theatreinchicago.com

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