‘American Idiot’ packs a punch of punk attitude

American Idiot | Crown Theatre | Until 11th February | ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

If you’d told the instigators of punk rock, the anti establishment movement of the 1970’s, that in forty years time punk albums would be turned into Broadway musicals, they’d have probably sneered at you, but here we are – American Idiot.

Californian punk rockers Green Day’s seventh album, released in 1999 is their opus, a rock opera style tale of the lives of three young men from Suburbia. It’s a political work, commenting on the first Gulf War, the war of drugs, commercialism and television culture.

Ten years after it’s release the album was adapted to a become a successful Broadway musical, and now it’s finally reached Perth, for a limited run at the Crown Theatre.

The intricate and clever staging features a backdrop that is filled with video screens, through the production live cameras are used to project the action occurring on stage.

We meet three friends who live in suburban Jingle Town USA, blonde, good looking Johnny (Linden Furnell), buff Tunny (Conor Crawford), and bearded Will (Alex Jeans).  With their lives going nowhere, the trio decide to move to the city, but just before they leave Will discovers his girlfriend is pregnant and decides to stay.

In the city Tunny decides to join the army and is deployed to Iraq, Jimmy pines for a beautiful girl he sees in an apartment window, and after he meets drug dealing alter-ego St Jimmy (Phil Jamieson) he develops a drug dependency and builds up the courage to begin a relationship with her.

Back in suburbia Will becomes depressed and lives on the couch, Tunny is subjected to the brutalities of war, and Jimmy becomes increasingly reliant on drugs.

The opening night crowd for American Idiot was an intriguing mix of musical lovers, and die hard Green Day fans. The show is all music with minimal dialogue, and fans knew ever single line. Even before Linden Furnell delivered Jimmy’s first line someone had shouted it out for him.

The songs in the work are excellent, they’re pumped full of energy and the energetic cast deliver a full throttle performance. A careful balance is struck , the ensemble do bring the story to life through a lot of interpretive dance, but the live band on stage keep the “rock n’ roll” vs “showtime!” balance in check.

The three leads deliver great performances, Linden Furnell as Johnny is captivating. Phoebe Panaretos, who plays the character ‘Whatsername’, the woman Jimmy falls in love with, also displays some superb vocal skills.

Grinspoon front man Phil Jamieson looked like he was having ‘the time of his life’ performing the role of St Jimmy. For some performances during the Perth run Adalita from Magic Dirt will be performing the role, while in other cities Sarah McLeod from The Superjesus has taken on the part.

After watching this show the first thing I wanted to do once getting home was to listen to the original album and dissect every lyric.

The only disappointing element of the show was the final curtain call sees the cast singing Green Day’s biggest hit Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) which is from one of their earlier albums, it’s sentimental and feels like it’s tacked on (it’s not – it was in the original Broadway production too) It would have been so much better have left the audience with a powerful rendition of the title track.

‘American Idiot’ is at the Crown Theatre until 11th February.             

Graeme Watson


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