Thursday, 5 November 2015

"American Idiot" by Streetlight Theatre Arts.
Derby Theatre

Directed by Matt Powell
Produced by Ollie Turner

There are musicals, and there are musicals. Once in a while a musical comes along which has the same effect on you as the ice bucket challenge (remember that). It refreshes the parts that other musicals can't reach and slaps you round the face. "American Idiot" is such a musical.

From the very start this wakes you up, shakes you up and doesn't stop until the full 90 minutes is up. It's ironic that opening night fell on Bonfire Night as this show is a cracker, it makes you spin like a Catherine Wheel and there's not a damp squib in sight.

While this rock opera made up of Green Day songs doesn't tell a story through the song lyrics the story is of three men and their different directions life takes them, all three going away to discover their lives have been enriched in their experiences when they all come back together.

It's all music and this highlights what wonderful melodies as well as the great rock music that Green Day have produced over the years. The music in the show provided by an excellent live band, directed by Dave Adey, as well as some brilliant solo guitar work from the cast.

Talking of which, I better start telling you what an amazing cast Matt and the production team amassed for the Streetlight final show.

Johnny, who is the main character, is played by Kyle Lamley. Kyle has a great rock voice, which really doesn't come as a surprise as he is also the lead singer with local rock band Theia. This also explains the wonderful guitar work on stage as well. Johnny is lured by drugs and there's a very vivid part of the show which shows him and his girlfriend taking drugs, which is quite harrowing.

Now the man responsible for this irresponsible behaviour is St Jimmy, played by Oliver Wheddon. If you've seen Ollie in anything in the past, then you may not recognise this character because St Jimmy is pure evil. It's a testament to Oliver's acting that I started to really hate the character. Dressed all in black, and with Ollie being so tall, he dominated the smaller in stature Johnny, making his character all the more dangerous. If you can remember the skeletons in that old film Jason and The Argonauts then this is the sunken faced image that St Jimmy projects. A nasty piece of work and a real turnaround for one of the nicest, most unassuming blokes I know.

Tunny, who decides to go off to war and conforms is played by another man with a brilliant voice, Mitch Gamble. Again another very different role to what I've seen him do in the past, but a very refreshing and different side to his acting, And we also get to see his guitar playing which is another string to his musical bow.

The third person in the trio is Will, played by Andrew Bould. The character of Will isn't quite as prominent as he has to give up on his freedom to stay at home with his pregnant girlfriend but his frustrations at doing this are clearly shown. Another strong voice in a company of strong voices.

The main characters are all male but there are some very good female roles in this musical, especially from Katy Freeman (Heather), Aine O'Neill-Mason (Whatsername), no that really is the character's name, Alana Moran (Extraordinary Girl) and a whole ensemble of fiesty women who rocked out.

Talking of which, the choreography was spiky, spunky and great fun to watch. I was worn out just watching the energetic dance routines put together by Charlotte Richo.

The acting is amazing, there's some choice language, only to be expected from the storyline and content, and some brilliant songs. Loved the attack of "American Idiot", "Holiday" was a brilliant ensemble piece which made you feel like punching the air, "Favourite Son" has a brilliant comedy element and one for the ladies as Ben Jones appears in just his boxers. "Last Night On Earth", "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams" (sung solo by Kyle amazingly well) which almost went into a gospel tinged ending, "21 Guns", "Wake Me Up When September Ends" and "Time Of My Life" were all highlights for me and these showed what amazing songs they are and what brilliant versions created for the band and the singers to perform.

A massively enjoyable show and one that Streetlight can be so so proud of to end on.

Imaginative set design by Richard Heappey and some brilliant lighting designed by Kevin Greene and operated by Neil Jones and Joe Lammond.

"American Idiot" is on at Derby Theatre until Saturday 7 November 2015, but if Thursday night is anything to go by, you better get your ticket fast because the standing ovation they had was as far as I could see 100% of the packed auditorium and you know that word is going to spread just how good this show is.

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