*** 3 Stars
“A Hope filled odyssey for a disenchanted generation”
Its hard to believe that it’s a decade since Green Days “Punk Opera” concept album, American Idiot was first brought to the stage as a sung through musical, The story, expanded from that of the album, centres on three disaffected young men, Johnny (Tom Milner), Will (Samuel Pope) and Tunny (Joshua Dowen) living in the American landscape post events of 9/11. Johnny and Tunny flee a stifling suburban lifestyle and parental restrictions, while Will stays home to work out his relationship with his pregnant girlfriend, Heather. The former pair look for meaning in life and try out the freedom and excitement of the city. Tunny quickly gives up on a city life that seemed so appealing, joins the military and is shipped off to war with a dramatic consequence that alters the direction of his life forever. Johnny’s disenchantment with the American Dream see’s him turn to drugs and discovers a part of himself that he grows to dislike, his journey sees broken relationships and the hurt of lost love truly the angst driven centre of the story.
Green Days potent music is performed by a first-class onstage band perched high above the ensuing action and Billie Joe Armstrong’s (the bands lead singer) lyrics remain as potent as ever. However, Director and Choreographer Racky Plews has made this an incredible clean take on the show. I’ve never witnessed such healthy and tanned looking junkies. The choreographic choices also jar on more than one occasion when the story and music will carry the story then less deeply choregraphed back ground action is often better.
Tom Milner brings a stark vulnerability and endlessly watchable take on “Johnny” his decent into hard drugs has the audience in rapt silence and you can’t help but root for him to come out the other side of his dance with the devil intact. Joshua Dowen’s portrayal of “Tunny” is the ultimate dramatic counterpoint and a truly accomplished performance. His ability to convey the shattering of his Army dream and facing the harsh reality he must now face is riveting and when he performs three-part harmony with his own self is a theatrical highpoint.
Not all the casting benefits the production, the ongoing trend of casting X Factor performers is wearing as thin as the x factor show itself. Luke Friend (X Factor 2013) has the voice to pull of an effective “St Jimmy” the drug selling demi god of the show, but he doesn’t have the acting ability to bring the character truly to life leaving a clustered comedy character that lacks any form of direction. Sam Lavery (X Factor 2017) fares far better with a subtle character of “Whatshername” and strong vocals.
Its during the song “21 Guns” that Sara Perkins Set design and Tim Deiling’s Lighting design truly show the depth of care given to the production and these moments appear more than once in this tight and overall engrossing production. A production which will continue to entertain both Green Day fans and Musical theatre buffs in equal measure.
As the Curtain falls, its obvious how this punk opera changed the perception of musical theatre and the expression of angst that is ever more relevant into todays “Trump” America. American Idiot the show much like its concept album before it, will always be a hope filled odyssey for a disenchanted generation. This is gripping and reality driven theatre at its potentially most potent.
Selladoor Productions, Piu Entertainment and Gavin Kalin Productions Present Green Day’s American Idiot, Edinburgh Playhouse runs until 9th February the UK tour Continues Including Glasgow and Aberdeen. For tickets go to: https://beta.atgtickets.com/show/american-idiot/edinburgh-playhouse