Sex, drugs and rock and roll take centre stage this week at the Palace theatre as American Idiot’s spirited rock opera is back in Manchester to celebrate its 10th anniversary. Merging the dingiest Crayola coloured set pieces, confetti canons and a compelling soundtrack, American Idiot expands on Green Day’s 2004 concept album to form a two-hour theatrical rock concert.
The show weaves together three disillusioned friends, Johnny (Tom Milner) Will (Samuel Pope) and Tunny (Joshua Dowen), who are looking to flee their suburban lives the day after 9/11. All three have dreams to carve out their own space away from their parents’ basements but find their plans are all swiftly side-lined for babies, drugs or the military.
The Grammy Award-winning album captures the disaffected youths of the post 9/11 world with a production fuelled around the bands rallying hits. Audiences will appreciate hearing the chants of Holiday / Boulevard of Broken Dreams and Are We the Waiting by the multitalented performers who switch between moshing, singing and strumming their guitars live. With honest lyrics written by the band leader Billy Joe Armstrong confronting the painful reality of a lost generation, the production chooses to add only a handful of spoken lines between the tracks, developing the entire plot through Green Days songs.
Plastering a giant television in the centre of the stage as a direct line of communication to the youths and its audience, the drama-filled production is full of memorable moments and playful staging. Using a mesh screen to hide a solo violinist and a destructible papier-mâché set, the familiar songs are given a raw and fresh revival.
Comprised of the entire American Idiot album, tracks from 21st Century Breakdown (2009) and a previously unrecorded song, When its Time, the show looks at the perils of war, love, censorship and misplaced anger through an ambivalent lens that is difficult to pin down. The first act of the production stays in full concert mode with experimental dancers throwing everything at the audience from blinding stage lights to simply throwing water at people in the front row. But the chaotic lives of the three young men are driven to shoehorn songs into its second act as the show balances the boys attempt to grow up through the remaining Green Day tracks.
For diehard fans of Green Day, the new arrangements of songs and the shows charismatic and enduring cast carry the production. It is an attention-grabbing and entertaining concert from its American Idiot opening to its Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) finale, with its driving lead Milner barely taking a moment to breathe between performances. While the album follows Milner’s characters rebellious discoveries in and out of suburbia, the remaining members are often left to couch tour throughout his story. Despite its abrupt ending, this is a show that focuses on the music audiences want to hear, and the casts infectious energy during the gripping production of its live concert makes it worth the journey.
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