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Theater Review: ‘American Idiot’ fights ordinary beat

Alex Forbess
Staff Writer

When news spread that Green Day allowed musical drones from New York to create a Broadway musical based on their best-selling album “American Idiot,” I felt my heart sink.

I never felt more betrayed to know my idols – wise men who raised me with the sacred gospel of punk – sold out in such a fashion that I considered sacrilegious.

Before throwing them out of my life, as they did with my heart, I decided to see this abomination when it came to Los Angeles.

Green Day, I am sorry for saying such blasphemous remarks.

What I thought was going to be a “Pajama Game” monstrosity was actually a straight down-with-the-establishment masterpiece.

“Green Day’s American Idiot” gives what fans have been looking for: a medium that provides a visual element for the album as cast members preach the testaments of Billie Joe.

This performance starts with three punks who perform their daily routine: drink beer, shout vulgarity, raise the middle finger to each other and repeat.

Johnny, Will and Tunny are having the time of their lives, but with the U.S. in a chaotic state, such as the uprising of the Iraq war and corporate media hypnotizing people to live a monotonous life, Johnny convinces his friends to run away and not be a product of a suburban utopia.

Throughout the 90-minute spectacle, it focuses on these three individuals’ lives and how they eventually separate and go through a downward spiral.

Each of their stories were filled with descriptive events ranging from becoming a mindless drone in the army, maturing after an unexpected pregnancy, to being bombarded by a confetti of drugs by Saint Jimmy, who is always present to temporarily take the characters away from their chaotic world.

At first, seeing actors dance to “American Idiot” in a synchronized fashion made me want to vomit. However, after watching it more, I was compelled to jump on stage as if it were a mosh pit.

The vocals were not great, but it is passable to express both the album and each character’s story.

The stage was decorated with rustic chains, worn-out mattresses and graffiti on the walls that made it capable of switching from Johnny’s room to the allies of an urban city. Televisions were hanging everywhere, displaying various footage of post 9/11 pandemonium such as George Bush saying those who are not with the U.S. are with the terrorists.

My concern with the production was that it would be different from the album, but everything stood intact. Each song was performed as if someone was playing the CD, starting from “American Idiot” and ending with “Whatsername.”

There are a few changes to surprise the die-hards, including adding songs from Green Day’s recent album, “21st Century Breakdown.”

The only difference was this production portrayed the life of three individuals, whereas one life was portrayed on the album.

As painful as it was to admit, “American Idiot” is perfect to be displayed for a musical. On stage or on someone’s iPod, Green Day’s message still remains valid, even eight years after the album was released.

This production expresses an independent movement, saying if citizens disagree with how things function, change it.

Raise that middle finger, turn the opposite direction and shout, ‘I don’t care.’

Alex Forbess can be reached at

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