Premiering for the first time in Southampton the the story by the modern day Rock Gods Green Day wastes no time before assailing your ears with noise.
As numerous American Headlines are blasted from 32 TV screens decorating the very urban, dark and scaffold based set, you hear phrases bandied around from Bush to Britney, terrorism to politics. As he curtain raises and various cast members are statically staring at the screens it doesn’t take long to guess which number is going to open this musical – as if the name wasn’t clue enough.
The arrangements of the songs were written by Green Day themselves so none of the original music or melodies are lost, some are mashed together causing an assault to the ears as you try to hear the lyrics but it’s still easy to recognise and enjoy the music, although at times the story is hard to follow. The songs included are almost entirely from the much acclaimed show namesake American Idiot album from 2004 but also contain some B-Sides and numbers from the 2009 album 21st Century Breakdown.
The familiar, loud, chords fill the stage and you know you’re in for 90 minutes of stellar music arrangements as Jonny (Alex Nee) begins American Idiot, the bands most iconic number. While Nee does lack some of the power in his voice required for such a rough, loud, boisterous rock hit his co cast members Tunny (Thomas Hettrick) and Will (Casey O’Farrell) add their voices to make it a much more passable volume.
The female voices aren’t incorporated frequently but when they are they dominate the sound with “Letterbomb” being an all female number and being by far the most impressive, although Kennedy Caughell’s contribution to “Dearly Beloved” is also very strong and highly unexpected as she takes on the role of Will’s pregnant girlfriend Heather.
One presence that cannot be overlooked is that of St Jimmy, AKA Jonny’s dealer and cause of his relationship downfall. Trent Saunders’ hair is as big as his voice and his presence on the stage and in Jonny’s life cannot be overlooked and it is easy to see why he succumbs so easily to his world.
With Will rarely leaving a sofa in the corner and Jonny on a bed spaced out on drugs wrapped around “Whatshername” girl (Alyssa DiPalma) while Tunny is away fighting – and seeing the flying belly dancer “Extraordinary Girl” (Jenna Rubaii) the piece is very much an interpretative piece of theatre. Steven Hogget’s choreography is as mixed in genre as the songs are in style from street to precise, head banging to ballet and these dances often say as much as the lyrics do and bring everyone together.
Although the slight stereotyping of young people into drug users and rebels is a little over the top in this production the other production values make you not care that your generation’s reputation is being dragged through the mud. You’re just having a damn good time rocking out in the civility of the theatre, definitely a show worth seeing!