Berkeley Repertory Theatre
The music of power-punk trio Green Day might seem an odd choice for musical theater, said Robert Hurwitt in the San Francisco Chronicle. But American Idiot, adapted from Green Day’s multiplatinum 2004 album of the same name, is a valiant attempt to combine the two—even if the result is more “theatrical rock concert” than Broadway musical. The band’s frontman, Billie Joe Armstrong, and Spring Awakening director Michael Mayer have crafted a show that loosely follows a character named Johnny on a “nihilistic” journey from suburbia to the big city and back again. Idiot “doesn’t deliver much in the way of a story,” but it’s worth seeing for the energetic music. “Lush orchestrations” and a high-quality cast produce a propulsive sound sure to generate “arena-worthy enthusiasm.”
Actually, it’s the music that I had a problem with, said Jim Harrington in the Oakland, Calif., Tribune. “More Rent than rock,” watching American Idiot is like watching “the equivalent of Green Day Night on American Idol.” The band’s passionate live performances have been a crucial part of what’s helped them remain atop the charts for so long. Here the over-rehearsed cast of the musical bleeds the life out of Green Day hits such as “Wake Me Up When September Ends” and “Holiday.” The album American Idiot was a “compelling post 9/11 coming-of-age story”; on stage, it’s reduced to a “big, bland, loud” mess. Fans of Green Day would be better served by putting on a pair of headphones and giving the source material a fresh listen.