To my mind, Green Day’s style of punk has always seemed a bit prefab. So I was unmoved by the 2004 album “American Idiot” upon its release, even as critics and Green Day fans gushed like a knocked-over fire hydrant. When the album became a stage musical a few years later, I was admittedly amazed at its staying power.
Now I’ve seen American Idiot, the musical, and I’ve got to say, it’s a memorable theater experience. Credit mostly the music itself, which somehow has grown on me since that album debuted so long ago. While the few ballads are nothing to get excited about (“Wake Me Up When September Ends” being the possible exception), the fiery title song and numbers like “She’s a Rebel,” “Extraordinary Girl” and “Too Much Too Soon” rock big-time. The staging of American Idiot, too, is impressive, from the backdrop of frenetically flashing television sets in full post-9/11 exploitation to Tunny (Thomas Hettrick) and the Extraordinary Girl herself (Jenna Rubaii) “flying” from a great height in downtown’s Civic Theatre.
If the story is a familiar one – three angry young men going in different directions at a crossroads in their lives – it is generally swallowed up by the music, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It was interesting to observe the all-ages crowd at the Civic Wednesday night being strafed from the stage with F-bombs and fist pumps and in general beholding fare unlike what most of them were used to beholding.
Maybe it was the same way on Broadway when American Idiot opened a couple of years ago. Imagine: Billie Joe expanding minds. Just for that, I’ve changed my mind about the album. It wasn’t idiotic of me not to love it, but possibly a little hasty.
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat