American Idiot: A Modern Rock Musical

Last night, I attended the opening night of Green Day’s American Idiot musical at the Ahmanson Theater in LA. I was honored to be among prestigious media and social media influencers who were invited to be some of the first to see this Tony Award winning Broadway musical. I have been ‘jonesing’ to see this show ever since it made its mark on Broadway a few years ago because this is the type of genre of musical theater that I especially love: Edgy, modern, boundary pushing,  provocative theme, great memorable music, youthful talented cast and exceptional use of music to tell the story. And with the dynamic Broadway duo of Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening) as the Director and Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) arranging the music, this musical was bound for greatness.

From the moment the pounding punk rock music started and the urban set with multiple TV’s lit up the stage, I knew I was in for an intense ride. American Idiot is based on Green Day’s Grammy Award winning album of the same name and it follows a young man named Johnny aka Jesus of Suburbia (the modern day savior) and his two best friends on their coming of age journey during the Bush era. This angsty what’s-the-point-of-it-all musical cleverly uses this brilliant album to tell the emotionally charged story of these three friends whose youthful hope and optimism are squelched by the Iraq War, propaganda and the disappointment of the unrealized American Dream. The music poetically tells the story of how Johnny succumbs to drugs, Tunny enlists in the army and heads to the Middle East and Will gets trapped in suburbia because he fathers a child.

Since modern themed rock musicals are among my favs, it is no surprise that American Idiot was reminiscent of one of my all time fav Broadway by shows Spring Awakening with the fabulous music created by Duncan Sheik (aside: I happened to have seen Spring Awakening on Broadway with Lea Michelle and Johnathan Groff who blew me away-and hence the reason why I am an UBER huge Glee fan.) I adore the music from Spring Awakening and how Duncan Sheik’s modern coming age music powerfully told that indelible story and IMO American Idiot creatively does the same thing but with a completely different style of music and story. This show also brought to mind some of my other all time musical favs like The Who’s Tommy and Rent, other profound shows that brought this rock musical genre to life.

So what did I think of American Idiot? I LOVED it! I found it riveting right from the start because of the pounding gets-under-your-skin Green Day music and I loved how Tom Kitt cleverly used the songs to tell this angsty coming of age story. I really liked the grungy urban set with multiple screens to play video and live footage to further showcase the vibe of era. I loved the creative staging and use of scaffold’s, balconies and even suspension wires to really visually enhance the story. I thought Van Hughes as Johnny was an amazing lead with a stellar voice, Joshua Kobak as the St. Jimmy aka the Drug Lord was FAB and Leslie McDonel as Heather really showcased her Broadway chops.

Overall, I thought American Idiot was a fabulous musical and a great story about modern youth. I just loved how Green Day’s music cleverly shaped the story and took us on an intense, head pounding journey into oblivion. And I one of the highlights came at the end of the show after the first curtain call, when all the actors were on stage with guitars and surprised us by singing us a goodbye song, Green Day’s Time of Your Life “I hope you had the time of your life. . .” YES we did!

American Idiot at the Ahmanson Theater 135 N. Grand Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90012. March 13-April 22, 2012 

Special Offers for American Idiot:

GREENSEATS Save 50% on Mezzanine seats Rear Mezzanine seats are just $42.50 (Tues-Fri; Reg. $85) or $50 (Sat-Sun; Reg. $100) for all performances through March 25! Call 213.972.4400 and mention code GREENSEATS or visit www.CenterTheatreGroup.org/GREENSEATS

Feeling lucky? Come downtown and register for the daily lottery Get up close and personal!  Sit in the front row for only $30! If your name is selected, you can purchase up to 2 tickets in the FIRST 2 ROWS of the theatre for just $30 each! Visit www.centertheatregroup.org/lottery for more details

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