It’s a post-9/11, media-ruled world—which is also the setting for Green Day’s musical American Idiot, which opened at Columbus’s Palace Theatre on March 19. Told almost entirely through the music of Green Day, the show tells the story of three friends finding their respective places in the world, and is also a clear commentary on American society.
The show opens with an overload of media—the multiple televisions covering the set showing rapid clips, and the main sound being the sound of overlapping media. Within seconds, the stage is in complete rock-out mode. The high energy of the cast mixed with the strobe lights and television effects definitely give the show a rock concert feeling.
American Idiot is almost entirely music. The one-act show contains twenty-one songs, so there is very limited talking. The downside to this (and, in my opinion, the one large downside of the show as a whole) is that, due to the songs being relatively unmodified from their Green Day album versions, the show takes a while to get into. The songs not being originally written for a traditional staged rock opera means that in the first quarter of the show, there is very little explanation in either the songs or in the limited dialogue as to what is going on in the story. However, once all of the individual stories of the main characters were better revealed as the show further progressed, the production became much more enjoyable.
Regardless, the cast is phenomenal. Leading the cast are Alex Nee, as Johnny, and Trent Saunders, as St. Jimmy. Both give incredibly strong and emotional performances. Nee is a fantastic lead, as he steals the stage with ease. Saunders is very unnerving as the dark and slightly creepy drug dealer of the story. As Will and Tunny, Casey O’Farrell and Thomas Hettrick respectively hold their own in bringing importance to their characters’ individual stories, even though they appear to be side stories to what is going on for Johnny. Both O’Farrell and Hettrick have emotionally-charged arcs as well, and both play these difficult arcs with conviction. As the three leading ladies, Kennedy Caughell (as Heather), Alyssa DiPalma (Whatsername), and Jenna Rubaii (The Extraordinary Girl) make sure that the girls’ parts of the show are not lost in the mix. All three of the ladies’ stories face different challenges, and they were certainly cast perfectly for their respective characters. I was particularly impressed with DiPalma, whose character has arguably the most emotional performance out of the three ladies—being strong in the face of a boyfriend with a drug addiction, and struggling to make the tough decision whether or not to stick around to save him. The ensemble too leaves nothing to be desired, as their high energy and clear comfort in the show is apparent.
Even with the slight confusion that can be caused at the very start of the show, American Idiot is a fun musical and makes for an entertaining night out. Be warned, however, that there are adult situations, some cursing, as well as direct references to drugs throughout the course of the story. If none of these trouble you, I would suggest giving American Idiot a chance before the tour leaves Columbus after March 24.