Every time I even read the word ‘American Idiot’ the first riff to Green Day’s legendary song plays in my head. It’s no secret I am a Green Day fan and saw the American Idiot tour in Milton Keynes Bowl back in 2005. It is me singing on the ‘Bullet In A Bible’ album along with 65,000 others! Some people would describe Green Day as Punk but others disagree and there has been a lot of debate if they sold out with the American Idiot album? Well my opinion is that Punk is a state of mind. It’s an attitude and not just a way to dress or a type of music. I am glad that the American Idiot album was so successful and that it brought Green Day to the masses. American Idiot the musical has also been successful being the winner of two Tony Awards and also the 2010 Grammy Award winner for Best Musical Show. Returning to celebrate its 10th year and 15th year of the album, we are so lucky it is visiting Milton Keynes – where Green Day played its biggest audience at the time. Despite all that, this is the first time I have seen the show. The original album is a story in itself and speaks to all those teens not quite knowing how they fit in. It speaks to my inner teen even now, when I am old enough to know better. The show keeps that theme and tells the story of three boyhood friends, Johnny, Will and Tunny, each searching for meaning in a post 9/11 world. They are not immediately likeable characters and I found them rather immature. However as we go on their journey with them, we get to see who they really are.
The story opens with TV images of the news of 9/11, which can still be disturbing today. How has this affected the friends and how will it affect their future? Setting the show immediately after 9/11 gives new meanings to songs I am already so familiar with. American Idiot and Jesus Of Suburbia; 9/11 just pushes them into a new post-apocalyptic world with new meanings.
Tom Milner is Johnny and he is outstanding in the role. I honestly felt his portrayal whilst on drugs is one of the most powerful performances I have seen in years. Tom gives Johnny attitude and is our very own Billy Joe. Luke Friend is St Jimmy and I loved his character. Luke is the modern day equivalent of Keifer Sutherland’s character in The Lost Boys. He is tempting and charming but at the same time you know he is bad news. Luke embodies St Jimmy and after 15 years of knowing these songs inside and out, I had an epiphany. I had always thought that St Jimmy was a drug pusher character, but now I started to question this. Is St Jimmy a figment of Johnny’s drug induced state? Wow! That really blew my mind to think the stage show has made think differently. Sam Lavery is Whatsername. If I was going to play any character in this show, Whatsername would be it. Sam has an amazing singing voice and most certainly fits what I thought Whatsername would be like. Tunny is played by Joshua Dowen and he gives a very strong performance as an all American red white and blue. I didn’t see his change of heart coming but sudden shocks and mass tragedy such as 9/11 impact on people in a way life wouldn’t normally. Will is played by Samuel Pope. Will’s life doesn’t seem to change quite as fast as the others but he is still struggling in this new world. However, despite the impact not being as big as some of the others, it’s good to see what is happening back home. Samuel keeps Will true to his character and in any other circumstances we might feel a bit more compassion for him, but Tunny wins that medal when our hearts go out to him.
I loved the live band and their interaction with the story. There is a point where Johnny says they are going to see a band but the band will probably be shit. The band themselves stop playing and look threateningly at Johnny. It’s a brief moment of humour in an otherwise dark and moving piece of theatre. This is an absolutely stunning musical with a fantastic cast and I loved it. I love the songs and how they are interpreted for the musical and how well they fit with the story. And I love the story – it’s motivating and moving in equal measure. We all go through bad times and it’s about recognising those and knowing how to move on.
The show contains strong language and drug references so is therefore deemed not suitable for under 14s. Which will probably mean they will want to see it even more! Milton Keynes Theatre hosts American Idiot until Saturday 27 April. And I loved it so much I am going again on Friday! Don’t miss out on this….’cause it’s comedy and tragedy. It’s American Idiot and that’s my review…don’t wear it out!