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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Green Day's American Idiot (Theatrical) at Chapel Off Chapel - 90 minutes, plus a 20-minute interval

Updated: Mar 12, 2023

Three disaffected young men are at the centre of punk rock band Green Day’s rock opera American Idiot.

The story is expanded from its album of the same name, (released in 2004) and also features music from its 2009 album 21st Century Breakdown.

Photos by Nicole Cleary

The band – formed in 1986 by lead vocalist and guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong and bassist Mike Dirnt - has sold more than 75 million records worldwide.

It has won five Grammy Awards, including Best Rock Album for both American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown.

Green day was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April 2015, its first year of eligibility.

American Idiot, the musical debuted on Broadway in March 2010 and received two Tony Awards, as well as being nominated for Best Musical.

Developed by Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer, it captured the sound of a generation.

It showcases the frustrations, fears, dreams and challenges of life in the media- saturated, post 9/11 era.

It tells the story of three mates – Johnny (Matt Dwyer), Will (Ronald MacKinnon) and Tunny (John Mondelo).

They are grappling with a decision to either challenge the status quo and break out of their aimless rut or remain in the confines of their urban existence.

Their quest for real meaning in a world full of violence and dissolution leads them on a journey of self-discovery, heartache and revelation.

Will stays home with his pregnant girlfriend, Heather.

Tunny joins the army, is shipped off to war and is badly injured.

Johnny – around whom most of the musical gravitates – turns to drugs and finds a part of himself that he grows to dislike.

Will Huang plays Johnny’s alter ego St Jimmy.

The three female leads are Romy McIlroy (as Whatsername, Johnny’s girlfriend), Harmony Thomas-Brown (as Will’s partner) and Tashiya Prins (as Extraordinary Girl, Tunny’s nurse).

Thomas Martin is cast as barrel chested, All-American armed forces’ recruiter Favorite Son.

A pulsating, high-octane score underpins the anarchy that is this musical’s lifeblood.

And when I say musical, I do mean wall-to-wall music, with but a few free words of dialogue. This is the kind of material that stirs an audience.

The performances – the vocalisation and musicianship – of the 17 cast members and nine-piece band are strong.

The band, conducted by musical director Tahra Cannon, is mighty.

After all the power, the acoustic number that closes the show is a great way to figuratively bring down the curtain.

Among the standout performers is Romy McIlroy, whose voice is intoxicating. In fact, all three female leads are affecting.

Mat Dwyer has unmistakable stage presence. He leans into the role, ably supported by Ronald MacKinnon and John Mondelo.

The musical starts with the three squeezed onto a small couch watching TV, while we hear all that is wrong with the world.

Green Day’s American Idiot is energy on a stick, the essence of which is dissatisfaction and anger.

Frequent, often slick movement, is integral to the piece. Grace Collins has done a fine job with the choreography.

The industrial setting, complete with graffiti wall backdrop, hits the right note. Yvonne Jin and Felicity Bain are responsible.

The lighting design by Jason Bovaird is masterful. His use of tight, multihued spotlights is a memorable feature of the production.

With a running time of 90 minutes (plus a 20-minuter interval), Green Day’s American Idiot is loud and proud, and leaves an indelible impression.

Directed by Scott Bradley, it is playing at Chapel Off Chapel until 26th March, 2023.


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