Theatre review: American Idiot

The songs are decent, if lacking in consistency
Arts Theatre | ★★☆☆☆

Green Day and musical theatre seem like odd bedfellows until you consider that both are fun, infantile and the kind of thing that no self respecting adult would confess to enjoying.

When the two came together for 2010’s Broadway production American Idiot, the show won two Tony awards and a Grammy; a surprise given the show’s punkish, anti-establishment spirit.

Writers Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer have the same attitude to plot and character that Sid Vicious had to music lessons – don’t need ‘em, don’t want em, don’t care. As a result, the three-stranded narrative, which follows a trio of male friends who conspire to leave their nowheresville town, is bewildering.

The songs are decent, if lacking in consistency. At its best, Armstrong’s song-writing is bouncy and singalong, a perfect fit for the West End stage. The show starts with the eponymous American Idiot, a bracing musical ice-bucket, followed by other hits from the album. But nothing that can accurately be described as “punk” is designed to go on being good for more than half an hour, and sure enough, we soon find ourselves in a wilderness of muddy album tracks.

For many of the songs, the cast seem unsure of how to respond to the rocky rhythms, settling for wild pogoing that feels refreshingly chaotic at first but soon becomes disengaging. The worst offender is Alexis Gerred, who looks and sings like a cramp-riddled non-league centre back clinging on for nil nil against the league leaders. He screams, he shouts, he had me sticking my fingers in my ears every time he stepped on stage.

Armstrong and Mayer deserve credit for their roguish take on the musical. But, like its ill-fated protagonists, it leaves you wondering what could have been if only it had found a better way to channel its adolescent rage.

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