American Idiot Review – Good Cast, Poor Show

MTAS Admin Luke Smith (@lukesmithdj) reviews American Idiot for @MTAS_Official

So it was after hearing a lot of positive comments about this show that I decided to check it out when it came back for it’s limited run at the Arts Theatre this summer. For those of you who don’t know, American Idiot is the story based on the band Green Day’s 2004 concept album of the same name.

TIdiot 4his particular run has double-platinum selling Newton Faulkner leading as Johnny and ‘X Factor’ finalist Amelia Lily back as Whatsername. I was surprised to learn that Faulkner has actually trained at the Italia Conti stage school which meant he was genuinely good in the role. His voice works great for the songs (unsurprising given he was in a Green Day tribute band!) and he can actually act. Amelia Lily is however wasted in her part given there really isn’t much for her to do or sing. She has no solo songs and just a couple of verses in others which is a shame given that she is one of the small number of people from those reality tv shows who can actually sing. Personally the show is stollen entirely by Lucas Rush as St Jimmy and I don’t think I’m alone given he was nominated for a WhatsOnStage award for best supporting actor in the role. Everytime he is on stage there is instant energy which you just don’t get from the rest of the cast.

Idiot 2One of the many problems with this is actually the space they are performing in. To say the stage is small is an understatement so the cast have to contain every movement to their minimum meaning that you don’t get the conviction or energy from them given this is supposed to the the ultimate rebellion against the state.

Another big problem on the night I saw was that the sound was bad – not the quality, just the actual levels. You couldn’t hear the words to the songs over the band and often the chorus’ mics just weren’t on. I hope this isn’t a ‘normal’ thing with the show but given that they consider it a rock opera and therefore there’s very little talking in the show you really need to hear the words they are singing. This also leads to a weird situation where the song you know from the album you can follow because you already know the words but then they somehow seem out of context. I have nothing against a rock show being loud at all but ultimately you have to hear the lyrics to have any hope of following the story…which brings me onto my biggest problem with the show – there is not really much going on!

To explain… *SPOILERS* Essentially it’s three brothers who after 9/11 decide to take control of their lives so go their own ways and we follow them over the next year. Will (played by Steve Rushton) has a baby, and doesn’t really do much else other than get high and complain. The second Tunny joins the army and has messed up dreams as a result. To be fair Alexis Gerred has a good voice and looks the part but theres just not much substance to it. Remaining then is Jonny (Faulkner) who’s a schizophrenic drugged up waster who’s alter ego – St Jimmy – steals the show. After a year they all go home and the show ends with everyone singing Good Riddance.

Idiot 1I don’t want to be unnecessarily harsh on the show because the cast actually do a good job, the set is effective given the space and the lighting is tight at all times and really does enhance the mood. It’s just that everything seems to need to be spelt out to the audience and takes longer than it needs to. I was surprised that there were gasps from the audience at the ultimate realisation that Jonny and St Jimmy were the same person but the fact that Faulkner had to re-enact all the same actions again to make this point clear made me feel like the director thought the audience were actually american idiots and wouldn’t get it otherwise.

In summary I have no problem with the actual production of this show but I just didn’t like the show itself. The London production didn’t have an interval so it felt too long and dragged at times. There is a lot of swearing and drug taking which whilst it does fit the story just, again, felt a bit over the top! If you like Green Day then you’ll get a new interpretation of some of the songs (Wake Me Up When September Ends is a particular highlight) and maybe make sense of the album. The cast themselves are easily 4* review but the show is below a 2 so overall verdict = 3/5
3-star

American Idiot is at the Arts Theatre until September 25th.

Have you seen American Idiot – What did you think? Do you agree with our review?

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