Saturday, April 10, 2010


I haven't seen very many Broadway shows since I caught The Who's Tommy nearly two decades ago. I remember thinking that the Broadway renditions of the songs were goofy. Worse, they even changed the storyline to have a more optimistic ending. I'm not a big showtunes guy, and I prefer rock and roll.  But I remember thinking that maybe Broadway isn't really the right venue for rock and roll.  And while Jersey Boys, about The Four Seasons, has done quite well and is supposedly quite good, most rock and roll-based stage productions have tanked.

Green Day's American Idiot is the first time that a Broadway production has been based on recent music: American Idiot came out in 2004. I was wondering how different this would be than Tommy, or the other revue-ish rock-based musicals. Pretty different, actually. You walk in, and they provide magic markers to write on the walls of the lobby.  You gotta love that. The band actually played on the stage, not from a pit. And it was rocking. Musically, the songs stuck pretty much to the original arrangements, the vocal arrangements were of course very different and very Broadway. (A good preview is the "21 Guns" single by Green Day with the cast). If you can't get past that, you wouldn't like it. The same goes for the plot - it didn't go too far, and the characters weren't super developed, but you can get stuck on that point.  Or, as Larry Flick would say, you can have a twinkie and go for the ride. I decided to go for the ride.  I had a great time. The American Idiot songs were fun, and there was even an awesome b-side ("Favorite Son") as well as two tracks from 21st Century Breakdown ("21 Guns" and "Know Your Enemy"). The story wasn't how I pictured it when I listened to the album (I thought of it as a future totalitarian government vs. punk rockers) but I didn't write the play.  I didn't get hung up on anything though, and I had a good time, which is probably the right way to approach something like this.

I took my young 13 year old cousin Kyle, and his review was much more succinct than mine. "Best. Play. Ever." I'm looking forward to taking him to see Green Day in concert this summer, which I think I will prefer. Still, I'll give props to the cast and crew of American Idiot, they brought rock and roll in a semi-legit way to the Broadway stage which is no easy feat.


Ryan McGowan said...

Seems like a luke warm review reading between the lines. American Idiot is one of my favorite albums. I was hoping this would be the big surprising Broadway hit that no one saw coming. I'm looking forward to seeing it regardless.

Minority said...

Hi, Ryan, thanks for contributing to my blog. I did enjoy it - although it was kind frontloaded with the best songs, so at some point it ran out of momentum. I love American Idiot, and during the show, I was amazed at how well these very ambitious punk songs held up in the Broadway format. It is a fun night out, albeit maybe not one for younger kids (it's rated R for sure, for sex and lots of drug situations - not pot, but harder stuff). will it be a hit? hard to say, the story wouldn't hold up without the songs. I'm told that's the case with lots of musicals - of the ones I've seen, I thought that West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof held up, but maybe Grease wouldn't. Will it be a hit? Tough to say - depends on if older folks who may not be into Green Day will want to pay Broadway prices for this show. I bet the story and presentation are stronger than the Lennon and Beach Boys shows that recently didn't do well - and it was way better than Tommy. But all of those appeal to people who are more in the Broadway age (and tax bracket). All of this is a long way of saying, if you love American idiot, by all means, go. You'll have a great time.

Jill said...

Well, this 55-year-old is going next weekend, and I can't wait. I never would have dreamed that Green Day would ever be The Most Important Rock Band in the World, but whether by genius or default, they have become thus.

What you said about the show being frontloaded with the best songs is a weakness of the original material. The title song is by any measure a showstopper, and it's often the kiss of death to open the show with your showstopper.

This is different from the various jukebox musicals that have come and gone, because the outline of the story is right there in the original material.

I expect it to be fantastic, and friends who are involved in theatre who are not Green Day fans already say it's the best show to open this year.

I can't wait.

Minority said...

Jill - thanks for reading and contributing to my blog, and feel free to post your review here after you see it. I agree, having the title track at the end would have been a great move - they probably could have started *and* ended with it. But the best songs on the album - American Idiot, Jesus Of Suburbia, Holiday and Boulevard Of Broken Dreams all came pretty early (as they do on the album itself). I look forward to reading about how you liked the show!