Green Day’s “American Idiot” ran on Broadway for about a year to mixed reviews. The positive reviewers praised it for its energy and youthful vibe; its detractors noted its lack of true story line and called it nothing more than a rock concert on stage.
Proctors’ limited run of the musical may not be for everyone — if you go expecting “Oklahoma!” or “Carousel” you might find yourself walking out after one of the more graphic sex or drug scenes — but it’s a high-energy, beautifully grungy production that, in my opinion, is not to be missed.
“American Idiot” is very much a rock opera. There is very little dialogue, and most of the story is told through the music. (If you’re not a fan of the band Green Day, the musical might not be for you.)
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 8 p.m. today
HOW MUCH: $70-$20
MORE INFO: 346-6204, www.proctors.org
It’s very much a modern tale, reminiscent of “Rent” or “Spring Awakening” with both the realistic themes (sex, drugs, language) and rock music. Michael Mayer, who originally directed “Spring Awakening,” directed “American Idiot” on Broadway — and if this production is any indication, his influence is still apparent.
The plot is fairly simple: Three friends, Johnny, Will and Tunny, dissatisfied with their lives, head out to “make it” in the big city. Will’s plans are forced to change at the last minute, and Johnny and Tunny don’t exactly find the magic they expect once they’re out of their hometown.
The three leads are perfectly cast. Alex Nee’s Johnny is a Billie Joe Armstrong (the lead singer of Green Day) doppelganger and has a strong, clear voice that is perfect for both the louder rock songs and the softer, more introspective pieces. Thomas Hettrick as Tunny is both a strong singer and actor, and has an aerial scene that is awe-inspiring. Casey O’Farrell (Will) has a smaller role, but plays the friend that stays behind to deal with his duties very well, and also has an excellent voice.
Although the show wouldn’t really be considered a rock opera if it wasn’t loud, it does suffer from being too loud at times. If you’re going to rely upon the lyrics of your songs to tell the story for you, then you have to make sure the lyrics are audible over the music. The actors are able to tell the story through their actions, but hearing the lyrics clearly would add an extra layer of meaning to the production.
The set is a wonder, with many levels, television sets used effectively and creatively throughout the production, and surprises in every scene. The lighting is also excellent, and having the band on the stage adds a layer of gritty realism to the production that I especially enjoyed.
Tonight is the last night of the show’s three-day run and I highly encourage anyone who’s at all curious about it to check it out. It’s unlike anything we’ve seen in the area before, and you’ll be glad you took the chance.
It’s a truly modern musical, and it’s one of the most compelling productions I’ve seen in the area in some time.