REVIEWSTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

American Idiot – National Tour

Music by Green Dayamerican-idiot- the musical national tour

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?

American Idiot nationaal tour, chicago

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.”

American Idiot nationaal tour, chicago

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!

American Idiot nationaal tour, chicago

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

4 thoughts on “American Idiot – National Tour

  • Wow, this piece of writing is pleasant, my sister is analyzing these kinds of things, thus I am going to inform her.

  • Keri

    While I respect your opinion, and understand that this is not a musical for everyone, you should have really done your homework before purchasing tickets. The musical is based around Green Day’s American Idiot album, and if you’re not a fan of their music, what makes you think you’d enjoy the musical about it? A quick Google search would yield plenty of results informing you about the musical and you would know right away that this was something you wouldn’t want to see.

    It irks me to no end when people complain about something because they didn’t research it before hand. This musical should not get a bad review because of misinformed viewers.

  • First, I get press comps for these shows and I review every show that produced Broadway In Chicago brings to town. I believe that the height of ignorance is to pre-judge a show without see it. I was aware of the music and that it might be hard to like but my guest, who loves the group’s music, also hated the show. Just because one researches a show doesn’t mean that they’ll like it. Many folks left show after the first few minutes. It was simply a noisy, unintelligible show. Did you actually see this show? I simply reviewed what I saw.

  • I actually saw this just this past weekend while it was touring in Minneapolis, MN and thoroughly enjoyed it! If anything, I was a little disappointed the music wasn’t louder. I felt they subdued the bass in particular which really disappointed me. The Original Cast Recording is a much better rendition of what the live show SHOULD be like. I don’t think the vocals were slurred at all and every word was easily intelligible to me. But then again…I am a huge Green Day fan. 😉 I really think that age and musical interest might be at the core of the division in reviews of this musical. Those of us who grew up in the punk scene of the can easily identify with the story here and it’s really not hard to follow. Does it appeal to everybody? No…absolutely not. If you’re part of the typical “upper crust” that frequents the theater and expects a “coat and tails experience”…this musical is NOT for you. If you’re looking for a gritty and rocking performance that makes you want to jump out of your seat and pump your fist in the air…this is for you. The average theater attendee probably will not like or understand this. Does that somehow make it “bad”? No…it just makes it different…and apparently the reviewer is not objective enough to see that.

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