Green Day’s 2004 album American Idiot was created in response to the War on Terror and a wake-up call from the September 11 attacks. The rock opera was crafted in such a way that a plotline was built into each and every song, despite it being a concept record.
Because of the album’s plotline nature, director Michael Mayer brought it to life in musical form in 2010. It made its appearance on Broadway that year, and racked up a multitude of awards. Penn State’s very own School of Theatre brought this iconic album to life at the Playhouse Theatre for a preview on February 16, with the premiere on February 17.
The story expands upon American Idiot’s songs and follows three teenagers: Johnny (Johnathan Teeling), Will (Jack LeBoeuf), and Tunny (Aidan Wharton), as they begin their lives with plans to leave their suburb of Jingletown. As they prepare to flee to the city, Will stays behind with his pregnant girlfriend. Once Johnny and Tunny arrive in their new home, Johnny begins to fall victim to the temptations of sex and drugs. His mind creates the figure of St. Jimmy (Austen Auriemma) who tempts him to participate in these behaviors. Johnny, while on his own, meets someone he calls, ‘the girl of my dreams,’ also known as “Whatsername” (Maggie Malaney). Meanwhile, Tunny takes a different path, one that leads him into the military. He eventually gets deployed and sent to the war.
The lead single and title track “American Idiot’ opens the show with high energy — television screens flash events from the time the album was created. The combination of minimal props and electrifying lighting effects during this song alone put the audience in the rebellious minds of the characters. The simplicity of the background added so much more to the performance. Metal fire-escape pieces for the cast to move about and walls surrounded by graffiti were also featured. Depending on the scene different pieces were added, but the majority of show stuck to those core props.
Although the majority of the songs came from American Idiot, some other Green Day tracks made their way into the musical. They came from other Green Day albums: 21st Century Breakdown and American Idiot B-Sides. This show flows from emotional tracks like “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “21 Guns,” and “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” to high intensity songs that make this rock experience one of a kind. Some of those include “Holiday,” “Know Your Enemy,” and of course, “American Idiot.”
“American Idiot” is truly an amazing representation of punk rock in a tumultuous time not so long ago — even though it might seem like a different world. The School of Theatre put on an electrifying, high intensity, show that was a treat to watch. The whole cast’s performances were stellar — they brought their characters to life through song. As a Green Day fan, this show is a must-see.
For those who are sensitive to strobe-lights and mature content like swearing, sex, and drugs, this is a show you should take a pass on. It’s recommended for adult audiences because of the themes and behaviors the characters are involved in. The show has many more dates scheduled for fans, so there’s no excuse to miss out on this punk musical. A list of those dates and more information is here.
Photos By: Jason Speer