October 24, 2009

A Post About Theatre? What?

So, last night I treated a few friends to American Idiot at Berkley Repatory Theatre, meaning, I paid for half their tickets. I'm not exactly rolling in Benjamin's here. $85 tickets is a little expensive for anyone! Anyway, back to the point, American Idiot. Unless you've lived under a rock for the last 10 years, you're probably aware of a little band called Green Day. Now, I personally like these guys. Their simple, yet powerful sound is quite appealing to me when I just want to relax and not marvel at the complexities of the artist I'm listening to. That being said, I think Billie Joe Armstrong's voice is really annoying. A lot of people hate them however, i.e. most of the followers of this blog, which may make you wonder why I'm even posting this. Well, I'll tell you. Because, regardless of what you think of the band, you will find something to like in American Idiot, the musical. The songs that the band and Michael Mayer, who directed, chose to include lend themselves well to the show, since they already have an underlying narrative to them as is. The music is just as powerful and loud as you know it, which is just fine. It's been awhile since we've had a true rock opera, and before you give me crap about that last statement, let me finish. Rent and Spring Awakening do not count as rock opera, due to the music in those shows being more rooted in pop and traditional Broadway ballads. American Idiot is a full on rock opera! The songs do a good job of driving the almost non-existent plot forward, which is good, since there is almost no dialogue, with the exception of headliner John Gallagher, Jr. monologuing to the audience. Speaking of him, he does a great job, as does the rest of the cast. The plot focuses on three guys from the ass end of society, two of which move to the city while the other one stays behind to be with his knocked up girlfriend. One of them goes off to war, while the other one self-destructs thanks to drugs, drink, and the punk scene. The songs are the only things moving this bare bones plot forward, but, it's not that big of deal. Like I said, the album itself tells more or less the same story on its own. The cast does a great job injecting energy and fury into the play, thanks in part to some really cool choreography by Steven Hogget. The stands out, in my mind, are Gallagher, Jr., who does a great job leading this pack of lowlife rejects, Matt Caplan, who boasts the best voice in the entire cast, Theo Stockman, who was just recently on Broadway in Hair, and who is always a pleasure to watch, and Tony Vincent, who, even though he looks like Marilyn Manson, does a great job as the quasi-antagonist St. Jimmy. That, and his voice can go to Adam Lambert levels of high! I hope that most of this cast stays with it when it moves to Broadway.
That being said, this play needs a lot of work if it wants to have any chance of surviving on that coveted strip of asphalt in Times Square. For starters, the plot is terrible. There is no real sort of character development, and a lot of the songs feel a little out of place with what the characters are going through. The story and book are the main problems, but there are some other ones. Some songs feel unnecessary, like when St. Jimmy starts crooning "Know Your Enemy". My last gripe is with the finale. The second to last number ends on such a show stopping note, that I was ready to give my standing ovation. But, no! There's one more song, which is a bit of a let down as a finale. Albeit, it is loud, and the cast gets physical, but, it just didn't sit well with me. It's like "Song of Purple Summer". Good song. Terrible for a finale! But, all these gripes are for naught! I am positive that Armstrong and Mayer will rework the hell out of this show before it goes to Broadway. They have the body of a great musical already! Now they just need the heart! B-

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