Friday, October 16, 2009

"American Idiot" at the Berkeley Rep

by Purple Gene

Back in the late 80's I was looking for some live music to thrash to and I heard about a pithy little punk palace over on the industrial side of Berkeley called 924 Gilman Street…there was this new local band (from Vallejo) playing called "Sweet Children" ….they were a trio and kinda fit the bill as young, angry, obnoxious and anarchical assholes bangin' loud shit to a crazy crowd…it was a small venue with a lot of leather and chains (and eye make-up)…I remembered these guys not for their songs but for their spirit….I heard later that they changed their name to "Green Day"!

"Time of Your Life"

A number of years later…and after heavy MTV exposure and an infamous "Woodstock 1994" mud fight, they came out with a single called "Good Riddance (Time of your Life)"…

This song absolutely blew me away and I became re-hooked on "Green Day".

Then they went back to their 3 crashing chords with the hit "Holiday"

"American Idiot"

"Green Day" just kept getting better and better and like everyone in the mid 2000's were angry and upset over the political situation in our country…so they wrote, recorded and performed in Las Vegas their new concept album (and song) "American Idiot".. then in 2006 they won a Grammy for their recording of "Boulevard of Broken Dreams"..

Pop Punk Play

Just recently, Director Michael Mayer contacted "Green Day" about turning their concept album "American Idiot" into a Broadway Musical…initially Billy and the Boys were sort of stunned but warmed to the new challenge…after seeing Mayer's "Spring Awakening" production in New York. The play opened at the Berkeley Rep in early September

"American Idiot" the Musical

It's 6:45 PM on a Wednesday night and we are finding our places in the newly appointed ($10 million) Berkeley Rep Theater…..after being seated, turning off our cell phones and looking around at the other people…the curtain went up and we were blasted with a live drummer laying out the rhythm for "American Idiot"…the stage set was remarkable…maybe 80 feet high with newspaper articles, TV screens, hanging cars, graffiti and scaffolding…magnificent lighting…then the guitar player started blasting the chords at us…the base player bumped in…then suddenly this young thrasher named "Johnny" started singing…"don't wanna be an American Idiot…." And pretty soon the stage started filling up 20 something characters chiming in the chorus…then the story line of American Idiot begins….It turns out that "Johnny" (the main persona) is an angry confused shiftless young man with 2 similar friends…Tunny and Will….this is the story of their journey through a "21st Century Breakdown"…temptation and trouble with "Jesus of Suburbia" and ultimate reunion and "Redemption" all to the original tunes of "Green Day"

I really loved the whole concept, choreography, stage sets and the music….the players were adequately energetic and sufficiently talented (Tony Vincent as "St. Jimmy was outstanding). The action was frenetic and non stop and kept my head spinning….I had a little trouble following the story line and I wasn't thrilled with the final song…it wasn't catchy and sing a longy…..I would have preferred the play ending with "Time of your Life"! But……..

Broadway here they come…it's that good

Purple Gene gives "American Idiot: the Play"… 9 "West Side Story"…."Tommy" …."Hair"….."Jesus Christ…Superstar"….."Bohemian Rhapsody" …and "The Wall" kind of kudos out of 10 for being quite an original and amazing Rock Opera!

PS…..if high schools are ever gonna put on productions of "American Idiot" they will have to modify the 50 or more "fuck you's" in the story for the parents and teachers to approve!

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