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Bring on the American Idiots

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As much as I love fringe theatre, I also adore the commercial musical theatre productions as well, I may avoid Phantom like the plague and the thought of sitting through Cats again may bring me out in mange, but I often attend shows at The Lowry, Palace and Opera House as well as catching West End and Broadway shows.
I do, however for the most part find the touring musical scene a lifeless and repetitive bore, how many times do we need to see another production (and by another I mean identical) of Joseph or Grease, do we really need another 42nd Street Production that is identical to the last one and is Vampires Rock going for some kind of record in how many times they can do the same show each year?
Luckily things seem to be starting to shift a little, The Lion King is finally out on tour at The Palace and whilst the show’s were rubbish at least we had new titles at the Opera House with Monkee Business and Vampirette. Also this year we get to see 9 to 5 come to the UK (and most importantly Manchester first), the show may have flopped on Broadway but I have hopes that the rewrites the fabulous Dolly Parton has done will make it a hit.
However, the one I am really looking forward to is American Idiot at the Palace, a genuinely brave and exciting piece of theatre that blew me away when I watched the Broadway production. The music is from punk band Green Day and comes from their concept album American Idiot (with a few songs from their follow up album) and is one of the greatest rock scores of the past 20 years. The show can’t really be categorized as a jukebox musical as Green Day wrote the album with a narrative in mind knowing it would either end up on film or on stage.

This is theatre at its most exciting (though I am a little sad that the epic set from Broadway has been scaled down) and raw, a look at the lives of three boys in America trying to find their way in a country they feel has abandoned them.  It’s theatre like this that we should be seeing much more of, unique and not your typical glitzy or campy affair, it takes the genre of musical theatre and turns it on its head, it does not just burst in to song it sings its emotions through rage, anger, sadness and disappointment.

To say the show is a nearly all sung through musical and the story is very simple, it still knows how to grab hold of you and pull you in their world without having to try. The show creates the kind of pulsating energy and creativity that Tommy generated when it first appeared on stage, and this is the only show I could stand American Idiot next to.

Idiot is the kind of theatre that is going to get a whole new crowd through the doors, especially regional theatres. It’s hard to find something for an audience under 35 that is out on tour. Sure, we have Fame and Footloose but it’s shows like American Idiot that will really leave an impression with people, an impression that proves just how cutting edge, raw and unique the art of musical theatre can be.
With shows like Next to Normal still to grace the UK shores, let’s hope that American Idiot can enjoy the kind of success that allows these braver pieces of musical theatre to visit our region. In the meantime this Tony winning show is one that everyone who is a fan of innovative and exciting theatre should see, get a ticket today whilst you still can, and then purchase another one to experience the show all over again. It's that good!

- Craig Hepworth


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