My 13-year-old son, Levi, walked into the Hippodrome a bit warily for Green Day’s American Idiot musical. He expected watered-down versions of favorite songs servicing a Broadway-friendly narrative that stripped away the original album’s power. It didn’t help matters that he’d seen Green Day at the Patriot Center last month and was blown away by Billie Joe and crew. Well, guess what? Levi approves of the play, and I wholeheartedly agree.
At the outset, it takes a few minutes getting acclimated to the musical’s punk-ish intensity—did I just write that?—which comes from all directions: the cast’s all-out energy, the physicality of the choreography, the onstage band’s amped-up playing, the f-bomb dropping, and sensory overload generated by the set design (I counted 33 TV screens). But director Michael Mayer, who co-wrote the book with Billie Joe Armstrong, deftly handles three story lines that play out gracefully and concisely without jettisoning the swaggering attitude and social criticism of the original material. Although Levi and I initially questioned the St. Jimmy character’s glam-ish sheen, we came to appreciate Trent Saunders’s take on the role.
In fact, the entire cast impressed us. And they’re all newbies. Reading their Playbill bios, I was stunned to learn that none of them had previous Broadway experience. None at all. How punk rock is that?
You can catch American Idiot at the Hippodrome through the weekend.