The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Entertainment

April 4, 2013

A smart show for 'Idiots'

Punk rock musical delivers powerful chords, commentary

INDIANAPOLIS — Since the advent of rock ’n’ roll, teenagers have stood in front of their bedroom mirrors turning wide, violent windmills on invisible guitars. “American Idiot” is like that, only choreographed and with jazz hands.

Adapted from the smash 2004 punk album by Green Day, the musical tells — or rather, screams — of love, anger and youth in revolt against a hyper-patriotic, post-9/11 world. That’s evident from the first overdriven guitar chord at Butler University’s Clowes Memorial Hall, where Broadway Across America’s “Idiot” opened Tuesday night.

Directed by Michael Mayer (“Spring Awakening,” “A View from the Bridge”), the rock-star cast powers through track after track of the blockbuster album, whose lyrics and sneering, angsty defiance are the raw essence of Green Day front-man Billie Joe Armstrong.

Those tracks, along with some from the band’s 2009 release, “21st Century Breakdown,” back the divergent stories of three friends desperate to reinvent themselves and fly a big middle finger in the face of American suburbia.

But the characters we meet at the show’s open are too young to understand their emotions, none the less articulate them, which lights the fuse on a stomping, head-banging and very rock-and-roll temper tantrum set to the album’s title track, “American Idiot.”  

“Don’t want to be an American idiot,” screams the ensemble, backed by glowing LCD American flags and an on-stage band, directed by Evan Jay Newman (“Lovers,” “Runaway 69”). They air-guitar, fist-pump and scissor-kick around the stage, pelting the audience with accusations of propaganda, paranoia and — gasp! — media control. Yeah, sorry about that.

But what teen’s problems can’t be solved by running away from home? So, our rebellious youths pack up their stickered guitar cases and hit the road. That is, aside from Tunny (Thomas Hettrick), who’s stopped by an unexpected announcement from his girlfriend (Kennedy Caughell). Congratulations Tunny, it’s a bouncing baby ball-and-chain!

It’s only the first of the more grown-up issues “Idiot” tackles. Cue the sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll.

“I held up a local convenience store to get a bus ticket,” says Johnny, played brilliantly by Alex Nee (“Rent,” “The Who’s Tommy”), whose ’90s-era rage is a near carbon-copy of Billie Joe, himself,

Will, solidly acted by Casey O’Farrell (“Footloose,” “Rent”), isn’t buying it.

Johnny concedes: “Actually I stole the money from my mom’s dresser.”

Nope.

“Actually she lent me the cash,” Johnny says, defeated, before heading for the big city in a stunning, dizzying blur of kaleidoscopic lighting and Armstrong’s powerful anthems — a trademark of “Idiot’s” aesthetic genius.

Equally as genius is the cast, who seamlessly blend aggressive, charged lyrics with raw emotion. The audience alternately laughs, judges and empathizes with Johnny, as he struggles with his newly-acquired drug addiction and a lusty relationship with girl called Whatsername (played with a Pat Benatar-style angst by Alyssa DiPalma of “Realm of the Unreal”). And with Will, who struggles between two conflicting identities after he joins the “enemy” as a pawn of the U.S. military machine.

Green Day’s “American Idiot” dropped in 2004, but both the album and musical’s evocative stories of rebellion, self-examination and discovery are eternal. A must for anyone who loves rock ’n’ roll, has ever felt the pangs of youth, or who is or ever wanted to be an “Idiot.”

Find Baylee Pulliam on Facebook and @BayleeNPulliam on Twitter, or call 648-4250.

1
Text Only
Entertainment
  • Mounds State Park hosts birding weekend featuring live hawk Mounds State Park will go to the birds April 25-27 as the park hosts “Bird the Mounds.”

    April 19, 2014

  • 14th annual dog walkathon at Shadyside Park The Madison County Humane Society will host its 14th annual dog walkathon on Saturday, May 3. The walk will be at Shadyside Park between 8 a.m. and noon (rain or shine.

    April 19, 2014

  • Liberty Christian makes changes to annual auction Liberty Christian School is upping the ante for its upcoming Duck-Tacular event. The school’s annual benefit auction is steering away from past forest themes to “Duck-Tacular,” a nod to the popular A&E show “Duck Dynasty.”

    April 18, 2014

  • FEA HB0418 LITTLE BIG TOWN Kathy Griffin to perform at Hoosier Park Emmy and Grammy winner Kathy Griffin will dish about her latest run-ins with celebrities and observations about Hollywood’s elite and popular culture in the Terrace Showroom when she brings her stand-up act to Anderson on April 26.

    April 17, 2014 4 Photos

  • Jazz night comes to Paramount Hopkins and Miller’s Sunset Stomp Jazz Band will perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Paramount. The performance is one of the first events for the 27th Annual City of Anderson Little 500 Festival schedule.

    April 17, 2014

  • Weekend Calendar: April 18 Entertainment scheduled at area venues for April 18-20.

    April 17, 2014

  • Live music: April 18 The following listings for live music and other entertainment at area venues are published in the Friday edition of The Herald Bulletin.

    April 17, 2014

  • Dog owners invited to Easter egg hunt McCulloch Park will be going to the dogs on Saturday. Residents are invited to join in for the Easter egg hunt specifically for canines and their human companions.

    April 16, 2014

  • FEA HB0416 Reno Sweeney Review: Classic Cole Porter tunes in 'Anything Goes' Light-hearted entertainment reigns at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre as the stage is filled with sparkling costumes, quick stepping and even a little slapstick thrown into the mix. “Anything Goes,” now playing through May 11, may be a musical celebrating its 80th anniversary, but the humor is not lost on modern audiences.

    April 16, 2014 3 Photos

  • 'Grace's Magic' to help Second Harvest Ball State graduate Cindee Cox is the author of “Grace’s Magic,” a children’s book geared around helping others and the community in which they live.

    April 14, 2014