Tuesday, 14 June 2016

"American Idiot"
Nottingham Theatre Royal.

Having seen this rock opera using the music of Green Day once before, I knew what to expect, so I knew I was in for a great night, and I was not disappointed.

The story centres on three young men, Johnny, Will, and Tunny. Johnny and Tunny escape a boring suburban lifestyle and parental restrictions, while Will stays home to work out his relationship with his pregnant girlfriend, Heather. Johnny and Tunny look for meaning in life and try out the freedom and excitement of the city. Tunny quickly gives up on life in the city, joins the military, and is shipped off to war. Johnny turns to drugs and finds a part of himself that he grows to dislike, has a relationship and experiences lost love before turning his life around and returning back to suburbia.

it all starts with TV news coverage of the twin towers attack on a massive TV screen, setting the scenes for that period of explosiveness.

Newton Faulkner plays Johnny and with his musical experience through his songs and performing, he was a natural for a role like this, and I was impressed by his stage presence and charisma.

X Factor contestant, Amelia Lily as "Whatsername" was a big surprise as I couldn't picture her in a role like this, but she also really impressed me. She has a magnetic stage presence and a clear vocal style, providing passion to the show and the songs.

Tunny, played on Tuesday night by Cellen Chugg Jones and Will was played by ex Son Of Dork singer/bass player, Steve Rushton.

St Jimmy, Johnny's drug-dealing alter ego, was played by Lucas Rush. Playing him with a more comical, possibly evil clown like side and looking a bit like Keith from the Prodigy but with a big rock voice.

A brilliant live band provided a powerful backing to the singers, and while being able to feel that bass thumping at your chest, when they turned to the more orchestral works of Green Day, they also produced a lovely tender, almost classical side of the band's music.

As you'd expect, with two hit making singers to the fore, the vocals, not just from Newton and Amelia, were spot on, sometimes they were a little hard to hear over the powerhouse of the band, but you're not there to listen to the lyrics, Most people already knew the lyrics from the Green Day album anyway. Saying that, when the ballads were performed, you heard every word, and the odd pin dropping.

A multi levelled set made sure that you could see all three of the main characters situations all at the same time, in different settings. Many highlights for me including the hospital scene, "Extraordinary Girl", which was a master of a dream-like sequence.

Prior to this scene there is a scene where Will is on the couch with his pregnant girlfriend, Tunny has been shot and wounded in battle and Johnny is in bed with "Whatsername". The music which fits all three scenarios is "Give Me Novacaine". References to swellings also show the tongue in cheek lyrics for all three as being apt.

Other highlights were the songs "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams", "Wake Me up When September Ends", the mighty and anthemic "21 Guns", the opening "American idiot" and the closing "Time Of Your Life".

The language, as you may expect is a little fruity, but realistic for the post 9/11 bohemians and there's plenty of flesh on show with Newton and co often parading around laddishly in their pants and nothing else, but the girls also look rather tasty in their costumes.

Brilliant production team headed up by director and choreographer, Racky Plews, and the choreography was stunning.

This is a brilliant rock opera and you don't even need to be a fan of Green Day to enjoy this show. The music is amazing anyway, the story is good and the acting and singing is powerful and emotive, plus it has a message to give. One slightly flustered fan in the interval also excitedly remarked "Newton Faulkner in just his pants, what's not to like?"

"American Idiot" is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 18 June 2016, and you'd be an idiot to miss it!

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