“American Idiot” – ASU Gammage

This review aired on KBAQ April 26, 2012


Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

If you like conventional Broadway musicals, stay away from Green Day’s “American Idiot” at ASU Gammage this week.  It hollers and shouts its rock sounds and twisted look at contemporary society.  The short show becomes an amazingly draggy 95 minutes as the Green Day songs tell a contrived story.  Focusing on dozens of televisions, all spewing news, the chorus explodes in anger at the state of America.  Johnny, nearly 30, has wasted his life with friends Will and Tunny.  Pregnant Heather appears to announce Will as her child’s father.  The announcement keeps Will from joining the other two who head to The City and a new life.

As Johnny and Tunny travel, they find a depressing and sickening America.  Tunny decides to join the military and things go meandering until they decide to come home and accept life and, with it, the possibility of hope.  Of course, the language is salty, drugs are part of everyone’s routine, and sexually explicit movements predominate.

The music assaults the ears while the character’s messy lives reveal what some of the younger generation crave.  Like many rock musicals, comprehension of song lyrics and, therefore, the story is a challenge.

Director Michael Mayer is hampered by the cluttered stage and Steven Hoggett’s dances are repetitious as the small cast runs on and off from the few entrances and swirl and twirl in a repetitious sameness that is boringly dull as it repeats over and over.  The orchestra is integrated on stage with the cast and the set has a variety of moveable objects that get used to death.  The cast is fine including lead Van Hughes’ rough tinged Johnny, Jake Epstein’s smoother Will, and Scott J. Campbell’s scruffy but poised Tunny.

“American Idiot’s” tough look at modern youth raises a serious question.  Next season, America’s most popular new musical, “The Book of Mormon,” bypasses the Valley because ASU Gammage management fears it will offend.  We are told we will see that show later after its honesty is worn down on the first year’s tour.  But why is “American Idiot” acceptable while management is afraid to bring a much funnier, much better, and much sharper but more pointed show as “The Book of Mormon”?  “American Idiot” offends more blatantly than “The Book of Mormon’s” more subtle laughs ever will.

“American Idiot” gives the older generation a view into the youthful culture but the show will not be liked by many.  “American Idiot” plays through Sunday, April 29 at ASU Gammage but stay away if modern music and the drug culture offend.  For tickets, call the Ticketmaster box office at 800-982-2787 or order tickets online at www.asugammage.com.

Grade: C


One Response to ““American Idiot” – ASU Gammage”

  1. Tom Socha said:

    Apr 28, 12 at 15:14

    I completely agree with Chris’s review. We sat in the audience hoping for the show to end, as it was hard to follow and using Green Day songs to tell a story seemed to fall flat. The dancing was second-rate at best and the voices too loud. Much louder then the music.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Green Day and listened to American Idiot hundreds of times from start to finish. This was just not what the press and media had made it out to be.

    I’ve read many reviews that applaud this show. The only applause we gave was one of thanks when the show finally ended.