Green Day's American Idiot

Date 26th March 2019
Society Pied Pipers Musical Theatre Club
Venue ADC Theatre Cambridge
Type of Production Musical
Director Megan Stickler-Sell
Musical Director Sam Wells
Choreographer Bryony Garner-Sullivan

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Author: Julie Petrucci

I have to admit to entering the ADC Theatre for the first night of Pied Pipers’ production of Green Day’s American Idiot with some trepidation.  Being unfamiliar with Green Day’s album on which the show is based I knew not what to expect apart from  the fact the show contained sex, drugs and rock and roll.

The opening film clips created a confusion of vision and sound then the gauze went out and the cast and band “hit it” for want of a better phrase.  Thirty seconds into the opening number (American Idiot) I was hooked.  This is technically a Rock Opera, not a Musical. Dialogue is minimal in this show, used mainly for continuity.

For all the punch and undeniable verve and attack of the very fit young cast, some of whom also play their own instruments, the show isn't always easy to follow so it was very useful to have the excellent synopsis in the programme.  The plot revolves around three down-trodden youths who want to escape their suburban dead-end. Along the way, they detour through a world of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Needless to say none of them end up as world famous, millionaire rock stars at the end.  

An excellent performance throughout came from Alex Stokoe as Johnny whose story we mainly follow as leader of this disparate trio.  Chip Colquhoun gave a fine performance as Tunny, whose life takes a turn when he decides to go into the army, is wounded and has a leg amputated. Maxim Thompson played the third character Will, who plans on leaving town with Johnny and Tunny until he discovers his girlfriend is pregnant and stays behind.  Thompson took the brunt of the many body mic problems which dogged the show.  Having to work upstage slumped on his settee put him under extra pressure with the mic problem which he dealt with manfully.   I particularly enjoyed this trio’s beautiful rendition of Wake Me Up When September Ends.'

Adam Bond as drug dealer St. Jimmy certainly put his own stamp on the role with standout costuming and make-up.  The other only “named” role was that of Favourite Son which gave Tom Greenhaigh the opportunity for a nice cameo performance outside of his Ensemble role.

The show is not very kind to the female characters as they are only really used as emotional crutches to support or fix the men-who make up the main male characters. Chlo Kitteridge as Tunny’s nurse Extraordinary Girl has no dialogue so must have been very grateful to have a duet and to contribute to the Ensemble.  Lucy Farrow as Whatsername, who befriends Johnny and starts the destruction of her own life and Emily Garner as Heather, Will’s pregnant girlfriend were both excellent throughout.  

The Ensemble certainly had no time to sit in the dressing room as they were involved in the majority of scenes one way or another.  Vocally it all sounded good.  The Rock Band set high above the action were absolutely excellent. Although they drowned the singers once or twice the sound balance overall was fine.  

The staging was interesting.  Several levels (all well-used) with the Band at the top.  Costumes depicted well the urban/grunge era and the make-up especially for St Jimmy was good too.  Technically though the gremlins were very active on the first night which did spoil things rather.  No doubt this will have been sorted out by the next performance.

Musical Director Sam Wells did a grand job with this show.  Bryony Garner-Sullivan’s choreography was exciting, fast moving and exceedingly energetic and was carried out seemingly faultlessly by the cast. 

Director Megan Stickler-Sell took on what is a huge challenge with this show and Pied Pipers did her proud.  The large audience not only appeared to thoroughly enjoy it but when encouraged to join in the final encore lost no time doing so.  In my time as a NODA Rep I have seen and enjoyed many shows which I probably would not have chosen to see otherwise.  American Idiot would have been one of them - I now know what I would have missed.  I am so glad to have been part of the audience for this one.