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American Idiot (Arts Theatre)

Aaron Sidwell impresses in this revival of Green Day's post 9/11 musical

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Anyone reading this will remember where they were on September 11 2001, memories that are rekindled pre-show as news clips play alongside George "If you're not with us, you're with the terrorists" Bush.

For the triumvirate at the centre of Billie Joe Armstrong's American Idiot, the day's events act as a catalyst for change, for getting out of suburbia, fleeing the media controlled rat-race and finding a cause to believe in.

But what starts as a joint mission soon fragments as stoner Will (Steve Rushton) becomes the first casualty, impeded by impending fatherhood. When impressionable layabout Tunny (Alexis Gerred) signs up to the army, brainwashed by a sexed-up recruitment video, Johnny (Aaron Sidwell) is left on his own and quickly descends into a drug-fuelled stupor.

Sidwell is superbly cast as the anti-establishment, angst-ridden, Mohawk-topped Johnny. He commands the stage, happily switching between bouncing off the walls in "Jesus of Suburbia" and "Holiday", and strumming through soulful ballads "When It's Time" and "Whatsername".

Racky Plews's direction and choreography takes this larger-than-life show, angry and aggressive, and confines it in the limited parameters of the Arts Theatre. Like a rabid dog trapped in a cage, tension mounts throughout until a rousing rendition of "21 Guns", which acts as a pressure release valve.

Unlike fellow X Factor contestant Matt Cardle, who last week impressed with a pitch perfect theatre debut in Memphis, Amelia Lily (playing Whatsername) has little chance to make an impact here. Aside from a punchy performance of "Letterbomb", the grand sum of her part is an odd Rapunzel-esque appearance before stripping off and getting into bed with Jonny.

Musical director Mark Crossland (recently MD on the brilliant Carrie) has done a stellar job, the band and ensemble sound exceptional, although bassist Brock Eddowes and guitarist Tommaso Varvello - on display throughout the piece - stick out in their inanimateness when surrounded by such energy in this intimate space.

As with most jukebox musicals, some songs feel shoehorned in and don't add much to the progression of the story, but all in all this is a fun, high octane piece you'd be an idiot to miss.

American Idiot runs at the Arts Theatre until 27 September. Click here for more information and to book tickets.

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