Sing Along to the Age of Paranoia – American Idiot Review

In 2004 when Green Day released their seventh studio album American Idiot, the rock opera concept album received a number of awards and was praised by critics for the political voice and the anti-hero everyman created by Billie Joe Armstrong.

Music videos that accompanied the singles were layered with vivid imagery rebelling against a stifling life in suburbia, patriotic commitments to your country and suffocating obligations to everyday life. With such a vibrant message, it was only a matter of time before these pieces of the story made their way into a 95 minute one-act stage musical that has now kicked off the 2012 season at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.

The show opens with a group of angsty teens living unhappily in suburbia, sleeping the day away, mindlessly watching tv and forgetting to shower… again. Their frustrations explode into the energetic in your face opening performance of “American Idiot”, which sets the tone and voice for the remainder of the show.

Transitioning seamlessly from one song to the next, we see three best friends Johnny, Will and Tunny try and escape the threatening grasp of their mundane lives to chase their dreams to the city.

Each boy is faced with their own individual obstacles that lead them on separate paths of self destruction and self awareness; Johnny falls head first into sex and drugs, Will remains at home with his pregnant wife never leaving his couch and Tunny enlists in the military to fight the numbing sensation he feels for life. They each experience the painful rise and fall of broken dreams and are forced to reflect upon their lives, resolving to turn things around before it’s too late.

The touring production sees Van Hughes as Johnny, Degrassi alum Jake Epstein as Will and canuck Scott J. Campbell as Tunny. Sharing the stage with a talented army of bored suburban youth – the boys donning just enough eyeliner and looking like Ashley’s ex boyfriends – American Idiot starts off strong and never loses its pace, even during emotive lulls like “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and “Wake me when September Ends”, both of which see the three friends sporting acoustic guitars and sitting solemnly down on the stage.

An eccentric performance by Joshua Kobak as St. Jimmy is worth mentioning, his thrill-seeking drug dealer manifestation of Johnny’s id was devilishly mischievous. His custom of throwing out handfuls of glitter from his pockets was something that Veronica found quite amusing, so take this as fair warning – if you happen to run into Veronica, keep an eye out for a pocket full of glitter.

The underrated band built into the set design revisit their glorified garage band days by flawlessly running through the rest of Green Day’s American Idiot catalogue with the likes of “Jesus of Suburbia”, “Holiday”, “St. Jimmy” and “21 Guns”.

During “Extraordinary Girl”, a surprising aerobatic scene shows Tunny and his Extraordinary Girl sailing gracefully through the air on wires, floating together in unison over the stage. It seems a little out of place, but they both handle the choreographed air show with such ease that it’s almost calming. And of course, as the show closes the full cast returns to the stage each with an acoustic guitar for their final number “Good Riddance (Time of your Life)”.

With little to no dialogue outside of song, the plot seems a little thin, but the musical numbers more than make up for that, making American Idiot a loud and aggressive union between a classic rock album and theatrical production. If tickets weren’t so bloody expensive it’d make for an experience any rock fan wouldn’t want to miss.

American Idiot runs until January 15 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.

images from google.