Sunday, May 2, 2010

Theater Review: American Idiot

Quick, Sexy, and endlessly confusing, Broadway’s American Idiot is a questionable caricature of a burgeoning generation.

Green Day is one of a handful of bands that represent the generation that is now coming of age and Broadway’s American Idiot is something of a caricature of that generation but seeing it played out before one’s eyes is terribly uncomfortable and gives little input into what the generation is really about. The most immediate issue with the musical is the total lack of any concrete storyline which unfortunately is multiplied by the fact that the work follows three friends after high school as they travel down very different paths of drug use, having a child, and joining the army.

As one might expect the music pulls the weight in this piece and the big numbers such as: 21 Guns, Time of Your Life, and Holiday are great but with 90 minutes to fill no amount of theater tricks like: wire suspensions, animations, or seductive skin can fill the void (but honestly the sex appeal of the skin does help a little). In reality, the smooth polish of Broadway and the cast of young talent ends up taking away some of power of what is great about these songs in their original form, the raw emotion (they are after all a punk band at heart), and it ends up cheapening the music.

The set, costumes, and design of the show contain a ton of modern iconography like wallpapered graffiti reading OBEY, Avedon’s Marilyn Monroe images, and a huge amount of punk influence countered with a touch of Calvin Klein ala Kate Moss in the Army numbers- all things that are associated with “cool” but in this context they are everything but and feel an obvious exploitation of cultural elements to no means aka it’s a sellout. We forgave Green Day for writing the never-ending prom video classic “Time of Your Life” even with the flimsy excuse that it was “the most punk thing” they could’ve done but this musical crosses the line.

In all, there are a couple of great musical numbers followed by a couple of huge questions like: why not write a better story, why would Green Day allow this to be staged, and does that girl in the sexy underwear have a boyfriend? Either way for the ticket price I’d much prefer to see the band perform the music themselves- that or grab a ticket to see the Who’s Tommy because they might not have died before they got old but somehow they remained respectable on Broadway.

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