New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, Wednesday 11th May, 2016
What sets this show apart from other jukebox musicals, like Mamma Mia or Save The Last Dance For Me, for example, is the fact that the songwriter (Billie Joe Armstrong) was actually involved in the writing of the show’s book. This lends the project authenticity – to a point.
The story involves three friends leaving home to make something of themselves in a world immediately after the 9/11 attacks – the sight of George W Bush on a TV screen makes me think he must be the American idiot of the title! Just as they set off, Will (Steve Rushton) learns his girlfriend is pregnant, so he stays behind to spend his days on the sofa. Tunny (Alexis Gerred) is inspired to enlist in the army – the next we see him he is in a hospital bed, one leg short (him, not the bed). Leading man Johnny (Newton Faulkner) is a Sideshow Bob lookalike. He meets a girl. He meets a boy who has drugs. He uses the drugs and loses the girl. The three lads reunite in their home town. That’s it, really. There may have been other things going on, but I couldn’t tell – lyrics get lost in the loud guitar-based music; I could have done with surtitles. Except when Amelia Lily (Whatsername) is on – her singing is loud, clear and in keeping with the pop-punk genre.
If you’re a Green Day fan – and there’s plenty of them in the audience – you’ll know the songs and what they’re singing about. Perhaps I should have Spotified the lot before I went in.
Johnny is an unappealing character, who readily admits he ‘forgot’ to shower – Faulkner is at his best with his acoustic guitar but I find it difficult to engage with Johnny or his situation. Tunny at least has something to gripe about – a dream sequence is particularly striking: Director Racky Plews seems to approach the show as one continuous music video. There are ‘cool’ moments and the chorus seem good-natured in their aggression.
Unfortunately, it’s not enough to hook me and draw me in. Green Day’s songs are melodious and give the vocalists chances to impress but there is not enough drama or plot to sustain my interest or make me care. As a piece of musical theatre, it doesn’t satisfy. As a concert, it’s pretty good.