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American Idiot - Hammersmith Apollo (Review)

American Idiot. Photo by Litwin

Review by Shanna Schreuder

A GENIUS album turned into a good musical – American Idiot is a high adrenaline show that shines a blinding spotlight on post-9/11 USA.

After its successful run on Broadway, which led to two Tony Awards and the 2010 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album, it has now opened at the Hammersmith Apollo for a two-week stint.

Featuring music from the 2004 namesake album with lyrics by lead singer Billy Joe Armstrong and directed by Tony Award-winner Michael Mayer, the story follows three childhood friends on their journey to escape their suburban home town while their country heads into a war with Iraq.

Johnny (Alex Nee), the leader of the group, and Tunny (Thomas Hettrick) get on a bus to the big city, while their remaining friend, Will (Casey O’Farrell), stays behind with his pregnant girlfriend. Johnny and Tunny, however, soon part ways as Johnny falls into the clutches of drug addiction and Tunny joins the army to fight his country’s enemies overseas.

Starting with the band’s hit songs American Idiot and Jesus of Suburbia, the trio’s joint feelings of rebellion are cemented. Although their paths quickly diverge, the remaining catalogue of songs works to link their individual roads to self destruction.

Accompanied by an on-stage rock band and a large ensemble, these head-banging tunes succeed in testing the structure of the large music hall.

The hand-full of acoustic numbers, and in particular When It’s Time, help to uncover the character’s underlying feelings. Using every inch of the stage, as well as the air above it, the energetic dance troupe follows Steven Hoggett’s spectacular choreography to create an impressive visual feast.

While American Idiot is a show of joyous excess and ticks all the right theatrical boxes, it’s a shame that the dialogue wasn’t fleshed out a bit more to add another dimension.

Having said that, with seminal tunes like Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Holiday and Wake Me Up When September Ends, this rock opera has everything it needs to make it a hit.

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American Idiot runs from Tuesday, December 11 until Sunday, December 16, 2012.