When Green Day’s American Idiot was released in 2004, I listened to it non-stop. As soon as it ended, I would start over from the beginning and listen again. It became a sort of addiction; the passion in the music and the completeness of the album just hooked me. I’ve also been a lifelong fan of musical theatre, so when I heard that American Idiot was being adapted for the stage, my curiosity was definitely piqued. I knew the result would either be brilliant… or a complete disaster. I finally had the opportunity to see it last night at Gammage Auditorium in Tempe. It was brilliant.
The production was directed by Michael Mayer, who won a Tony for his direction of another favorite show of mine, Spring Awakening. He captures the raw emotion and energy of Green Day’s work, and, like with Spring Awakening, brings innovative staging and storytelling. The cast brings it as well, led by Van Hughes who is incredible in the role of Johnny. After the curtain call, the entire cast comes back to the stage with guitars (although I caught at least one of them faking it) for a new arrangement of Green Day’s Good Riddance (Time of Your Life). That alone is worth the price of admission.
This is a show you could see many times and notice something new every time. American Idiot is not to be missed.
One last quick note. For as long as I can remember seeing shows at Gammage, the sound has been pretty awful. This was not the case last night. The balance was good, and you could hear the singers over the band really well. I spoke with a representative from Gammage who told me they made some changes recently, relocating and replacing some equipment. Whatever they did, seems to have worked, which is great news for audiences!
(Disclaimer: Tickets to the show for myself and my wife were complimentary in exchange for my participation in the Gammage Goers program. This in no way influenced my response.)