Green Day’s explosive rock musical American Idiot has crashed in to Milton Keynes Theatre this week.
It’s a show like no other with a relentless march of thumping punk rock and outrageous behaviour as the cast throw themselves around turning obscene gestures into perfectly choreographed dance moves. With a live band on stage and an ever increasing number of guitars played by the cast, this is perhaps the closest a jukebox musical can get to the feel of a gig.
Musical theatre and credible punk bands may not seem like the most obvious friends but Green Day’s 2004 concept album which provides the soundtrack was originally written as a ‘rock opera’ with the tracks telling a story.
The band may not have had any intention of ever turning it into a stage show but it fits seamlessly, avoiding the pitfalls of songs being shoehorned into the storyline.
In an era before social media, bands like Green Day, Blink 182 and Nirvana gave a voice to a generation struggling to find a place in a world with few answers, not knowing who to believe with conflicting messages from the media and government propaganda.
The show opens with news clips from 9/11, George Bush and news reports before opening on a scene of urban decay with the grafitti covered concrete forming the set.
The plot follows three friends, Johnny, Will and Tunny in the months after 9/11 as their lives take them in different directions. Will stays at home with his pregnant girlfriend Heather, while Johnny and Tunny leave their suburban life and head to the city. Tunny ends up joining the army and going to fight in Iraq while Johnny finds love with Whatsername before turning to drugs.
As you’d expect, the music is superb, but what makes this show work is how well it’s been cast. Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong actually appeared in the Broadway production and this tour features a cast who feel credible and edgy. Waterloo Road’s Tom Milner is outstanding as Johnny, with vocals that sound remarkably close to Green Day and a haunting portrayal of his character’s spiral into addiction.
Sam Lavery, X Factor finalist last year makes her stage debut as Johnny’s love interest ‘Whatsername’ with superb vocals and a fantastic stage presence.
There are also great performances from Luke Friend as St Jimmy, Samuel Pope as Will and Joshua Dowen as Tunny.
There’s some strong language and drug references so it’s perhaps not for the easily offended, but with two Tony Awards and a Grammy under its belt, ten years on this is a show which feel just as relevant today as ever.