Like Dreamboats and Petticoats, American Idiot is based on a titular album but with a lot more foot-stamping and head-banging.
As far as we could ascertain, Green Day’s American Idiot tells the story of three male friends from Jingletown USA none of whom has any body hair. One of them joins the army, one leaves town to become a drug addict and one is a couch potato. These turn out to be bad choices. The chap in the army loses a leg and the drug addict eventually gets clean, finds a job in an office and it turns out there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.
It’s a really big deal here. Sean from Coronation Street was in the audience and Phil even thought he also saw Curly Watts in a box. We hadn’t intended to see it but having been tantalisingly close to being given a ticket, Phil’s interest was piqued and Andrew – assured that it was only 95 minutes with no interval – reluctantly agreed to tag along when the show – which opens tonight – became available on the half price TKTS booth.
This being what Americans call punk music, it’s terribly difficult to make out the words in the rockier numbers but we persevered and were rewarded in some of the quieter numbers such as “Wake Me Up When September Ends”.
Phil really liked the song where a chap with half a head of black hair stood at the top of a staircase, another guy strumming a guitar on a sofa and a couple were shooting up on a revolve in a red spotlight. What could it have been? It certainly wasn’t “Before the Lobotomy” which must be a show stopper as it’s the only song listed in the programme as getting a reprise.
The Whingers looked at each other aghast as they thought the show was nearing its close when one character said “Is this the end or the beginning?”. But despite being clearly out of their comfort zone, Phil still felt that if about 50% of the score could be excised he might even contemplate getting the album.
American Idiot may not be our cup of tea musically or book-wise but it is spectacularly staged by director Michael Mayer. It must be the tallest stage set ever (again giving Phil vertigo as he feared for the performers’ lives), dotted with dozens of TV screens, staircases and a cellist. And it certainly has energy. And if it doesn’t win the Tony award for Best Bed-Bath In A Musical we’ll eat our hats.
And – most excitingly – there is flying! Of the Peter Pan variety. And even more excitingly it was Flying By Foy. Why is that exciting? Because the Whingers’ Interesting People Radar had been set to High on our first night in New York as we had a celebratory drink at the bar in Sardi’s and we got talking to a fabulous older lady who turned out to be Barbara Foy, the widow of Peter Foy, the creator of Flying By Foy who was there with her son-in-law Joe McGeough who runs the operations side of the business. They were so nice that they bought us drinks. In fact we are thinking of ditching our next-to-useless Virgin Atlantic tickets and flying back by Foy.
Difficult. If you like Green Day’s music, Spring Awakening, Rent that sort of thing, this is a probably as good as it gets. If your response to angst-ridden teenagers does not involve wanting to give them a good slap then you may have some sympathy for the characters. But if none of this applies to you then you- like we – are in trouble. On the other hand, the staging is excellent and the whole thing very slickly executed. Swings and roundabouts.