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'American Idiot' Rocks the Rows at Segerstrom Center

DOUG HAMILTON

American Idiot
Through June 3
Friday at 7:30 p.m.;
Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.;
Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Segerstrom Center for the Arts
600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa
714.556.2787 :: scfta.org

American Idiot is bringing down the house in Orange County and may be attracting some new fans to Segerstrom Center with this innovative and powerful musical.

Based on the multi-platinum 2004 concept album and book written by Green Day frontman Billie Jo Armstrong in collaboration with Spring Awakening Director Michael Mayer,  this musical theater power-punk mashup is a new approach to the jukebox musical: imagine taking a baseball bat to said jukebox in defiance.

Prepare for 100 minutes of high adrenaline, synapse overload, elevated energy, and creative choreography, infused with punk rock, slacker generational indifference. I have to admit, when this album came out in 2004, I was listening to a lot of children’s tunes, trying to keep loud music and profanity away from my impressionable son’s young ears, yet, when he was not around, my husband and I would crank up The Clash and The Ramones often enough, reminiscing fondly of the days when we were younger and cooler. Green Day cites these bands as major influences and the trio has earned a title as punk revivalists, earning commercial and critical success, enough so to bring their seventh studio album to life.

American Idiot is a tale of three young men, without much intention, living a boring, monotonous life in the suburbs in super slacker style of bong hits and beer (possibly in their parents' garage). They make a plan of escape to move to the big city and live a rock-and-roll lifestyle, hoping to find that holy grail of purpose and punk prosperity. The trio’s intentions are deterred by some real life issues: Will (Jake Epstein) stays behind in the burbs with his pregnant girlfriend, Heather (Leslie McDonel), while Tunny (Scott J. Campbell) deals with depression by enlisting in the Army. Only Johnny (Van Hughes) realizes his rock-and-roll fantasy, during which he meets the rocker chick of his dreams (Gabrielle McClinton) and with the help of the flashy drug pusher St. Jimmy (Joshua Kobak), they both develop a nasty heroin addiction.

This sad and pathetic story is supported by some impressive elements, which will keep you committed, even though it is a bit hard to care for this tormented trio. First and foremost, the technical aspects of this show are terrific: lighting (Kevin Adams) and scenic design (Christine Jones) received well deserved Tony nods with their impressive multimedia effects, pulsing, scrolling, in-your-face intensity.

The high energy and creative choreography of Steven Hoggett truly complements the music of this power-punk band, relaying the rage of the show’s generational gang of misfits.  A kick ass ensemble dance and sing and throw up their fists throughout this rock-and-roll one act with dedication and determination.

They include Talia Aaron, Krystina Alabado, Gabriel Antonacci, Larkin Bogan, Jennifer Bowles, Matt DeAngelis, Dan Gleason, Kelvin Moon Loh, Tommy McDowell, Jillian Mueller, Jarran Muse, Vince Oddo, and Okieriete Onaodowan.

The standout sequences include a very f-ed up, yet romantic dance, propped with surgical tubing junkies use to tie off their veins, as well as an aerial surreal flight between injured Tunny and his nurse/guardian angel, extraordinary girl (Nicci Claspell). The innovative choreography alone is worth the trip to Town Center Drive.


This punk rock opera is supported by an onstage band that rocks the house, as well as tones it down during the melodic ballad numbers, arranged by Tom Kitt (Next to Normal). Sound Designer Brian Ronan and Video Production Designer Darrel Maloney add to the partnerships, offering up an abundance of sound and light to push your auditory and optic senses. And if you are of the generation, you will have to fight off the urge to sing loudly along with the show’s most recognizable hits - you may want to pull out your lighter app.

And my chaperone for the evening was one of the first to enthusiastically jump to his feet in ovation - his young ears have matured and lucky for me, he thinks I am pretty cool for treating him to a rocking night of theater.





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