Green Day's American Idiot: a punk rock opera with renewed relevance

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Green Day’s American Idiot | URP Event Production in association with Capilano University Theatre Department | Centennial Theatre | November 5 – 10, 2019

Ripped couches, shredded jeans, and broken dreams: American Idiot is the bold, political rock opera that led Green Day back to superstardom in the early years of the 21st century. Fifteen years later, the songs have gained new relevance in our current political climate. The award-winning Broadway show follows three childhood friends as they search for meaning and attempt to escape suburbia.

Scenes of Donald Trump, Greta Thunberg, various newscasts, and reality tv shows welcome the audience and set the context for the show. With blinding lights, loud guitars, and dynamic, high-energy choreography, the show was off to a strong start with “American Idiot” as we were introduced to Johnny (Colin Sheen), his two friends, Tunny (Nick Heffelfinger) and Will (Tanner Ford), and his girlfriend Whatsername (Ali Watson).

Every song from the American Idiot album is included in the musical, including hits such as “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” and “Holiday,” along with several tracks from their follow-up album, 21st Century Breakdown.

Johnny decides to leave his suburban town and finds love with Whatsername, Tunny ends up joining the armed forces, and Will stays behind with his pregnant girlfriend, Heather (Erin Palm). Along the way, Johnny (aka Jesus of Suburbia) meets St. Jimmy, a “punk rock freedom fighter,” experiments with drug use, falls in love, and self-sabotages his relationship. Johnny and Whatsername were strong leads overall, but in some scenes they were a bit too self-aware.

The choreography and staging has an appropriate bold, punk-rock tone, but there was too little variation in the emotional quality of the ensemble numbers. The slower, more introspective solos such as “Wake Me Up When September Ends” stood out in contrast and showed off more emotional range. Will and Heather had great chemistry and stood out for their well-rounded performances.

The ensemble is full of energy and gives it their all right up until finale which features the timeless classic "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” with the cast clowning around as they try to find their place between the musical’s opposing themes of rage and love.

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