(Disclaimer – I was provided complimentary tickets to American Idiot by Des Moines Performing Arts)
In September 2004, Green Day released one of the most landmark albums of not only their career, but in the last 30 years of rock music. The “American Idiot” album was a concept album unlike anything that had been tried before. It bucked trends of short, catchy songs with two songs clocking in over nine minutes long. It changed the way we think about how albums are constructed, down to the importance of the order of the songs on the album.
Hard to tell if an album like “American Idiot” could ever be made again in the age of individual song downloading, but even if an album like it comes again, it’s unlikely that a Broadway musical will also come from that album.
American Idiot the Musical was one of my most anticipated shows of the 2014 Willis Broadway Series. It mixed an album that I love with a medium that has become one of my favorites.
American Idiot centers around three men trying to get out of their dull suburbian lives. Johnny, Will, and Tunny all have aspirations of breaking out of the suburbs and making a new, more exciting life for themselves in the city. Before they can even begin their adventure, Will is saddled with his girlfriend’s unexpected pregnancy and the toll it takes on their relationship. Johnny and Tunny take off for the city.
Not long after arriving in the city, Tunny decides that the life isn’t for him and he enlists in the army. This leaves Johnny on his own to face the big city and the demons that come with it. Among those demons is “St. Jimmy,” a walking and talking character that is actually a figment of Johnny’s imagination. St. Jimmy’s influence on Johnny will either guide him through his new journey or will ultimately destroy him and the relationships around him.
American Idiot is a very new show. So there’s a contemporary vibe throughout. That said, the content of the show can be considered abrasive. There is much adult language and some very adult scenarios that play out on stage including sex and drug use. I would not recommend this show for anyone under 16.
That said, I loved this show. It helped to know the entire catalog of music in the show, so I found myself singing and drumming along all throughout the 90-minute, intermission-free show. However, the show isn’t for everyone. The dancing can be a bit distracting and disconnected, and our show had a bit of trouble with the sound mix, but I was able to see past these issues and really enjoy the show. The set is fantastic and the cast was very energetic. I found myself wanting to hang out with them after the show.
American Idiot just has one day of shows left, today at 5:00 and 9:00pm. Catch it while you can.
Also, take another listen through the “American Idiot” album. It’s still fantastic.