Middle fingers fly as American Idiot invades the Straz Center

Green Day angsts up Broadway.

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A kinetic, frenzied affair, American Idiot, based on Green Day's multi-platinum fist-pumper of an album, leaves both its performers and audience gasping for air. Rage has a way of pushing everyone to the edge, it seems. The story, expanded from the concept album, focuses on the lives of three discontented young men, each with enough indignation to power the set's multiple video monitors, with some to spare. Johnny (Brandon Kalm), Will (Casey O'Farrell), and Tunny (Thomas Hettrick) are all looking for a way out. Out of their hopeless suburban town, out of the rules that shackle and bind them, and out of the eye of the authority that hovers like a hand grenade. With a handful of bus tickets, the boys think they find their way out, just as Will is chained tighter to settle in suburbia by a girlfriend with a baby bump. Johnny and Tunny run off to the city together, but are quickly separated and swallowed up by drugs and an American war, respectively.


Though the focus is most certainly masculine, it's really the ladies of American Idiot (including Clearwater's own Jenna Rubaii), who steal the show, stomping their boots and belting their lyrics out as they do it. It's really “Whatshername” (Alyssa DiPalma) who ironically demands that the audience remember her, with a performance that is sure to haunt both Johnny, and the exasperated crowd for sometime.


And they all rage on.


American Idiot borrows much of the behind-the-scenes creative team (including director Michael Mayer and scenic designer Christine Jones) from the equally audacious, Spring Awakening, and it shows. The stark set remains static for much of the show, save for a couch, industrial stairs and a bed or two, swinging in or out as needed. The amalgamation of bombastic music and bold characters make up the rest, and though the mostly sung-through show is light on dialogue, the trio of tales are all easy to follow.


American Idiot is a one-act fury of a show that will leave you wondering how the amazing cast pulls off the singing, screaming, kicking, and endless dancing. As the characters challenge any and all authority, the show itself challenges its performers and audience in a break-neck, balls to the wall, middle finger-flipped fracas.


And the breathlessness couldn't be more worth it.


Fans of Green Day, of pop-like punk rock, or anyone who thinks their bosses don't give them any respect are bound to love American Idiot. But as mentioned, a typical musical theater crowd might leave a little shell-shocked.

Between the head-banging, strobe lighting and angst-filled lyrics, American Idiot might be better suited to an arena rock setting than the musical theater. But punk rockers are wont to rock where punk rockers choose, especially if the setting is less than appropriate. That's not to say that the Green Day rock opera, which played this weekend at the Straz, isn't a great show, because it truly is. Just be prepared to have your face kicked in a (theatrically) punk rock way.

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