Theatre Review: “American Idiot” @ St. James Theatre, 10/10/10

It’s been almost a year since I last saw American Idiot closing weekend at it’s out-of-town tryout at Berkeley Rep. (I wrote seeing American Idiot four times at Berkeley Rep here.) Basically, I’ve been hooked since I saw it’s first preview back in September 2009. The kinetic energy of the cast was mind blowing. I knew that the material would land on Broadway and now it has and I finally got a chance to see it.

I’m still 100% behind my original review of American Idiot. Some shows don’t stand the test of time, but this one does. Here’s an excerpt from my original review:

Finally, someone has come along and given musical theatre the electro shock therapy it has needed for so long. While Tom Kitt’s newest musical, Next to Normal, deals directly with the affects of electro shock therapy, American Idiot is electro shock therapy for the audience. It screams independence and acceptance in a way that is nothing short of brilliant.

What I thought was most interesting was the fact that the plot was even clearer than it was at Berkeley Rep. I’m not sure why everyone in the Broadway community was complaining about this. They added a few lines, created new projections, costumes and added props that gave more depth to the story and its characters. Johnny’s dialogue became “written postcards” that Will received as he stayed home from the crazy adventure to take care of his newly born baby. They even added a figurative jail cell when Johnny decides to work for “the man”.  All of these changes made the story clearer and it was obvious the whole vision was streamlined and less chaotic than when it was is its infancy.

I still feel strongly that American Idiot was robbed at the Tony Awards. There’s no doubt that Michael Mayer should have received a nomination for Best Director. (He did, in fact, win the 2010 Drama Desk Award for Best Director.) Also, Stephen Hoggett should have been nominated for choreography. It’s inventive, interesting and very powerful. Then, of course, Tony Vincent and Stark Sands should have been nominated as well.

I think the Tony Awards gave American Idiot the finger and not for any real reason, expect maybe it was just too loud for the Tony voters’ hearing aids.

I do think Billie Joe Armstrong and the producers made one pivotal mistake: Billie Joe should have played St. Jimmy when they transferred to Broadway. If he would have been on a 3 or 6-month contract and opened the show as St. Jimmy, I think American Idiot would have been the hottest thing on Broadway this summer. Plus, I think Billie Joe would have been nominated and won a Tony Award. It would have changed the whole buzz of the show.

Overall, after performing this show for over a year, the cast still gives 150% in their performance. The St. James Theatre is probably twice the size of Berkeley Rep (maybe 3x the size) and I felt the cast’s energy in the back of the orchestra. I would have preferred seeing the show in a smaller space again, but it had no problem filling the space with passion and spark. (The sound designer did a brilliant job!)

I do think this piece speaks volumes to the younger generation, but it’s still equally accessible to everyone. I’m just happy I got to be a part of American Idiot’s journey to Broadway through the eyes of the audience. It’s been one hellavu ride.

I hella heart American Idiot.

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6 thoughts on “Theatre Review: “American Idiot” @ St. James Theatre, 10/10/10

  1. I just found your blog tonight (wanted to see what you said about Women on the Verge – which I just saw on sat night.) I have enjoyed reading some of your reviews. Wanted to point out that you should change your American Idiot review(s) to include the correct spelling of Billie Joe (not Billy Jo as you stated). Important to get his name right since it goes to your credibility since you’ve seen it several times and are passionate about show. I loved it too.

  2. I agree with your review except for the following:
    John Gallagher Jr. should have received a best actor nomination even if he didn’t win it was well deserved. Michael Esper and Tony Vincent should have received supporting actor nominations especially Michael Esper for the mountains of emotions he portrays in the show. And Billie Joe Armstrong was only hyped up so much because its his music and that he’s a rockstar. Tony Vincent out classes him with his acting ability and vocal performance especially. Clearly from the performances I saw Billie is not an actor and people loved it just because it was him. Tony Vincent brings down the house with every performance and to put Billie Joe in the show for an 3-6 month contract would definitely promote the show but not come close to the unbeatable tony vincent performance given 8 times a week,

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