Easy being Green Day
The timing couldn’t be better for Truckee Meadows Community College Performing Arts’ production of Green Day’s rock opera, American Idiot. With the animosity in today’s political climate, the fear of the Middle East, the outsized control of the media, and the unbelievable popularity of an ignorant bully bent on American authoritarianism, it’s almost like we’re back in 2004, when Green Day was recording the album of teenage angst that became this stage production’s namesake.
TMCC’s energetic—dare I say chaotic—production is every bit as angsty as the members of the punk rock band would have wanted.
Following the story suggested by the lyrics of the album, this rock opera is the story of Johnny (“Jesus of Suburbia”), who has grown up in a dull small town (“Jingletown USA”), in the midst of America’s burgeoning obsession with media violence, commercialism and 10-second soundbytes, resulting in generational malaise and confusion. Johnny (played by Joe Jackson) and his buddies Tunny (Clinton Swaim) and Will (Jesse Green) are ready to kick off the dust and leave for the “big city.” Seduction and descent into madness play out for all three young men.
Will has knocked up his girlfriend, Heather (Addie Eykelbosh), and is now stuck at home while his two pals set off for very different lives. Johnny is seduced by sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll, as peddled by his alter ego “St. Jimmy” (Kiba Walker). Meanwhile, Tunny is seduced by the patriotic images he sees on TV and enlists so he can go off to war.
As Will descends into a drunken stupor over his unexpected fatherhood, Johnny descends further into his own heroin-induced stupor, and Tunny winds up in the hospital, delirious over the loss of his leg. All three men finally have to hit bottom in their respective relationships—Will with Heather, Johnny with “Whats-her-name” (Bethany Mindrum) and Tunny with his nurse, Extraordinary Girl (Hayley Lightfoot)—and with their own feelings of self-worth before finally turning things around and coming home.
But the plot is a delicate wisp of a thing and is probably the least interesting or important thing about the show—that and the characters, who are shadows of people, utterly lacking development or any relatability. Aside from what’s sung in the album’s songs—including hits such as “Wake Me Up When September Ends” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”—the spoken dialogue is likely about a paragraph long. Very little political comment shows to the unenlightened viewer. The script seems to think it’s deeper than it is.
Not quite a play and not quite a Green Day concert, American Idiot is 90 minutes of uninterrupted sound and fury, intermingled with impressive lighting and multimedia effects, breathtakingly good choreography by Mig O’Hara and nonstop jamming from musical director Ted Owens and his bad-ass band.
I must applaud silk choreographer Anastasia Bobadilla for a seriously jaw-dropping aerial routine performed by Lightfoot, Swaim and two members of the ensemble cast (names not provided in program).
Vocally, the strongest performances were by leads Joe Jackson and the Kiba Walker (as a Ziggy Stardust-inspired St. Jimmy). Some other performances fell short, primarily by the female leads who had fierce competition with the music.
Sharp, insightful commentary on the restlessness of disaffected youth, American Idiot is not. But a fun 90-minute orgy of spectacular dancing, visuals and music? Absolutely.