American Idiot – Review – Bradford Alhambra
By Rebecca Hitchon, June 2019
15 years after Green Day’s multi-platinum rock album American Idiot was released, the Tony Award winning musical of the same name comes to Bradford, bringing with it not just the frenetic style of performance that is iconic of Green Day but also the hard-hitting themes that were introduced in their revolutionary album.
American Idiot follows three friends, all trying to rebel by escaping suburbia and looking for control, which seems lost in a post 9/11 world, in the city. Their differing paths to find purpose leave them dealing with war and drug addiction, as well as fatherhood and love.
It was obvious from the beginning that if you love Green Day, you’ll love the show. After being shown a series of images of 9/11, the audience were catapulted straight into the song ‘American Idiot’, with dynamic choreography and bold staging – and from this point on the dialogue was kept minimal. The response was electric and with a real mix of ages in this audience, it wasn’t hard to see how the music of Green Day continues to transcend generations.
Going in as a non-Green Day fan, I was apprehensive of whether the show would impact me in any way. However, even I could appreciate the raw grittiness of American Idiot and the feelings that you develop for the characters as you watch them dream of what they want their lives to be, but not always succeed.
This rawness was most hard-hitting with the stripped back numbers that were intertwined with the brash rock sequences. ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’ was a favourite moment for the audience as we watched the three protagonists stand in front of us with only their guitars, captivating us with stunning, emotive harmonies.
The cast’s vocals never faltered throughout, particularly those of the three friends: Johnny (Tom Milner), Tunny (Joshua Dowen) and Will (Samuel Pope), plus X Factor 2013 finalist Luke Friend, playing St Jimmy.
Yet at times, I felt that this didn’t make up for the lack of storyline. There was clear character progression and escapism but as one of the less clued-up audience members to be watching a musical featuring the music of Green Day, I couldn’t help feeling their songs had been forced into a narrative, rather than given context like fans may have thought.
This being said, what I did love was the simplicity of the grungy set with its graffiti, metal fencing and two levels, allowing for the constant presence of guitarists onstage. With the basic addition of a bed or a TV that came down from the ceiling, alongside the focus created from the lighting, the audience were transported into different locations or along different narrative strands.
American Idiot‘s adult themes and occasional crudeness might not suit everyone, but as the cast finished singing ‘Good Riddance’, the audience of Green Day fans clapped and sang along to the lyrics, ‘I hope you had the time of your life’. I don’t think anyone had to hope this was true: the audience reaction showed it was without a doubt.
images: Mark Dawson Photography