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Review: ‘American Idiot’

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Sex, drugs, and rock and roll make their way onto the Broadway stage with Green Day’s rock musical “American Idiot,” playing now through Jan. 19 at Bass Concert Hall.

This offering from the Broadway Across America season puts a loud and frenzied twist on the traditional musical.

The offspring of a collaboration between alternative rock band, Green Day, and the award-winning director of “Spring Awakening” (Michael Mayer), “American Idiot” pulses with pop-punk energy and teenage angst.

Built around the 2004 concept album of the same title, the show weaves a visual narrative around ambiguous lyrics dealing with post-9/11 America and the woes of disaffected suburban youth. We watch three young men as they plan to leave the suburbs in search of a sense of freedom. But the temptations and traps of life intervene, and nothing really turns out as planned.

As the three are set to head out of town, Will (Casey O’Farrell) discovers his girlfriend is pregnant and opts to stay behind. Tunny (Dan Tracy) gets to the city and can’t cope, so joins the army instead. And Johnny (Jared Nepute) loses himself in the chaotic world of the big city, finding both a girlfriend and a heroine addiction.

With very little dialogue added between the songs, the show demands you keep up with its frenetic narrative pace. It’s a one-act, ninety-minute whirlwind of rock music and disorientation. Often giving you three or more points of focus to choose from, the show rarely offers time to settle into complacent viewing.

Christine Jones won a Tony Award for her set design, and the vast construction of TV screens and scaffolding is definitely an impressive spectacle. Kevin Adams also won a Tony for the show’s lighting, and his incessant use of strobe lights aimed at the audience ensures the performance is burned into both your memory and your retinas.

The few quieter, acoustic numbers are welcome moments to pause and savor the lovely voices of O’Farrell, Tracy, and Nepute – each of whom offer wonderful solos when given the chance. And to the show’s credit, it offers at least one moment to vocally shine for each member of the cast (even if only in the finale).

Overall, “American Idiot” captures the aggressive, in-your-face aesthetic of a punk rock show, taming it only somewhat with Broadway quality dance numbers.

“American Idiot” continues through Jan. 19. www.texasperformingarts.org