Sunday, August 9

Green Day’s American Idiot

- April 17, 2019

West Side Story, Hair, Rent … post war the world of the stage musical changed. With the exception perhaps of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, bleak in its message, until then musicals tended to be rather jolly affairs. Then along came stories of disenfranchised youth, disenchanted, disappointed, disregarded… and to this canon of dark Americana we can now add American Idiot.

I admit that at the start I was not engaged. I know, I know, I am too old to understand the musical genre but hey, wait a minute I grew up with punk the first time round so the music I get. What I didn’t get was the lyrics. Given that this is based on a concept album I would have thought that clarity of diction would be a basic requirement.

Pretty soon though I was being carried along, the staging, choreography, set, lighting and direction of this piece are all exemplary and once in the zone and attuned to the volume levels of the band over the vocals I really started to enjoy things, especially in the second half.

There are some pretty good songs, both the neo punk anthems but also the gentler ballads but none of this would be anything without what can only be described as fine performances. The ensemble are finely tuned and energetic and the principals give very telling performances. The band play with heart, if a little heavily handled by the sound desk, but it certainly sounds like the real thing and not some scratch pit orchestra.

Finally and by no means least, hats off to Tom Milner who in the role of Johnny is the living, barely living, embodiment of a drug addled soul. It’s a fine performance in every sense, heartbreakingly descending to the very depths of heroin induced despair.

And from those depths the final appearance of the entire company, all playing guitars is impressive and moving. It had the audience of very mixed ages up on their feet in recognition of a great evening of entertainment.

16 April

Theatre Royal Brighton

Andrew Kay

Rating: ★★★★½

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