“American Idiot” – Stray Cat Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ June 27, 2016


Stray Cat Theatre, Studio Theatre, Tempe Center for the Arts
Tempe, AZ

When I saw “American Idiot,” based on Green Day’s 2004 phenomenal album, as a Broadway musical in 2010, I was not a fan.  The modern rock score through me.  The show is now having its local premiere at Stray Cat Theatre in their new home at the Tempe Center for the Arts and my reaction changed dramatically because of at a dynamically presented production staged brilliantly by Ron May and performed exquisitely by an impressive cast.

Why the different reaction?  The score doesn’t seem as strange today as it aligns with contemporary rock music heard daily.  The unusual presentation of an otherwise straight-forward love story is more acceptable.  And it is being presented here in the perfect space.

In a traditional Broadway theater, the show was out of place.  But in the flexible Studio Theatre, “American Idiot” has found the perfect home.  Director May uses the space to let his actors run wild but this is the best way to stage today’s off-beat shows.  This truth isn’t meant to detract from Stray Cat Theatre’s courage in presenting “American Idiot” or May’s meticulous telling of Green Day’s story.

“American Idiot” looks at the way today’s younger generation treats traditional values and how differently they rise to the challenges.  Many characters are deadbeats but they search for different approaches.  Some work and some don’t as they try everything from traditional military service to communal living that results in an unwanted pregnancy.

In some respects, “American Idiot” is passé but it captures an era and explains it.  Focusing on three characters – Johnny, Will, and Tunny – they tackle life and try different approaches until the discover what works for them.  Societal things that can’t change get in their way but they still find different solutions.

The throbbing score tell the story with a theatrical flair.  An excellent band captures Green Day’s style.  The cluttered stage and split second scene shifts create new locales smoothly for the flawless cast.  Since all dialogue is expressed only through music, the only problem is that occasional lyrics are lost due to amplification issues.

It’s impossible to separate each ensemble member for individual accolades but one performer Alan Khoutakoun as the androgynous St. Jimmy, never gives away the character’s sex, a requirement of this part.

“American Idiot” is not a typical musical but if you yearn for something stylistically unique, rush to Stray Cat Theatre’s “American Idiot” that continues through July 16.  For tickets, call the Stray Cat Theatre information line at 480-227-1766 or order tickets online at www.straycattheatre.org.

Grade: A