Talk about a show that you went into it expecting nothing, and walked out in amazement! Like all other musical enthusiast, we had seen American Idiot and Billie Joe Armstrong strut their stuff on the Grammys and the Tonys. Upon hearing in 2011 that American Idiot would begin touring the United States, I immediately put it in my memory bank that if it came to Chicago then it was a “must see” (only two others are on the list….Book of Mormon and Sister Act – both of which are on their way!).
I was a Green Day fan back in the Dookie, Insomniac, and Nookie days of my high school years. I later loved 21st Century Breakdown when it was released. It told a story. It was in Acts!? Nutty – but I loved it. So when I heard that Billie Joe and team signed on for Broadway, I wasn’t surprised, but I was skeptical. And then it was nominated and won for some Tony awards!? Say what? Green Day? The punk rock band of my high school youth were on Broadway and successful at that. The fact that even the New York Times raved about the show peaked my interests.
All that to say, I was in Chicago and it was in NYC. But not for long – it left the The Great White Way and headed out on tour. So, even though we’re in a money saving mode, on the day we were downtown to get our civil union (yay!), we had already planned on purchasing tickets at the box office. To make matters even more solidified, in three stores we went into they were playing Green Day on their music…..okay, okay we’ll go!
Now onto the show….the short premise of this is the story of three friends in a small town: Johnny, Will and Tunny. Their dreams to get out of this small town all go in different directions instead of together as best friends as they had hoped. Will stays home with his pregnant girlfriend, now stuck which Johnny and Tunny go off for adventures. The city is harsh to them and Tunny joins the army, while Johnny loses himself to drugs.
The choreography is not much, but it’s effective. It’s a lot of thrashing and arm pumping. But not in a dumb way. These kids are angry. Angry at themselves. Angry at what’s happened to them. Angry at the world. And just plain angry at life! The movements in the choreography reflect the lyrics and the emotions that the actors are portraying on the stage.
The singers were crisp and clear. Some even got lifted into the air by wires! Incredible talent all around. Tunny falling in love with the Extraordinary Girl after losing a leg in the war was sweet and poignant, but not sappy to ruin the whole mood of the dirty war and the wounded soldiers. Another scene that was incredible was the sex scene with Johnny and Whatshername. The mimicking of having sex on stage was quite visual – more so than I’ve ever seen before. This was not just your average “moving around under a sheet” people – there was thrusting and hard kissing and whew! Some parents with their kids in the audience has to be uncomfortable….
In any case, the show ended and we were all out of our seats – and then the BEST part happened. The curtain lowers and quickly goes back up again – as usual. But in that brief moment some very quick and nimble stage hands had delivered guitars on stage. To every. Single. Performer. That’s right, they could ALL play the guitar!! And what was even more amazing was that they all started playing and singing Green Day’s “Good Riddance” (or better known as the graduation song or “Time of Your Life”)!! People singing and bouncing in their seats at a musical. I hadn’t had this much fun since Rock of Ages!! In any case it was the *perfect* ending to a great show!
The show is short sadly, but it works. It’s only 85 minutes long and no intermission. The people that came to the Saturday evening show were super mixed from older people you wonder how they ended up there, to 40 year olds, to the kiddos in their Green Day concert t-shirts. In any case, no matter what the age, this show is politically charged and connects to anyone who felt lost in life at one point or another. Check it out if it swings into your town!