Wow, Berkeley Rep has done an impeccable job translating Green Day’s music into a rock opera. Topical, affecting, disturbing, riveting, rocking musical. I’m still agog after last night’s performance.
Michael Mayer’s directorial hand is obvious in this production—you can see Spring Awakening shimmering in everything from production to staging to script. But American Idiot is very much its own theater. And, damn, it’s good theater.
Driving, pulsing, almost relentless, the transitions are breathless, the casting almost flawless, and the use of gobs of Green Day music with minimal dialogue compels beyond what most musicals accomplish. The lyrics, of course, are artistic rants, so Mayer wisely lets them speak for themselves; but he and Billie Joe Armstrong masterfully add layers I never expected to see without seeming forced. Lighting and sound are teched beautifully; I was honestly worried in advance about volume, because I’m a sissy at concerts, but the levels were perfect. Only the fetus had trouble with the pounding bass and angst-filled vocals.
My fears, other than the volume, were that the show would be a pretense for music, and that a rock-and-roll musical would make me feel old. Neither was true. The music is a show in itself, but Mayer did a great job taking substance and layering it with more. And from the opening number, I felt in tune with the characters: fraught with frustration and anger and powerlessness. Maybe because I associate most of Green Day’s music with my piss and vinegar phases. Maybe because I’m not that old (yeah, right). Probably because it’s a well written and impeccably performed show.
The singing last night was impeccable, and highlights include a flawless Tony Vincent as St. Jimmy; immensely likeable John Gallagher, Jr. as Johnny; intense voice of Christina Sajous as The Extraordinary Girl; the raw and adorable Matt Caplan as Tunny (and my friend T’s newest hardcore crush); and special appearance by the compelling Libby Winters as Heather.
A few missteps aren’t worth mentioning. Human beings on stage are sometimes not on top of their games. Righteous choreography sometimes, maybe once, looks silly because this is a group of people on stage moving in ways the other people in your life don’t. The best person for the role sometimes just doesn’t fit into it, even after months of rehearsal. So what? This show is still headed for Broadway, hopefully with the whole cast and crew intact.
I would give my favorite of the night to Tony Vincent for a riveting performance, but we had our first non-grandparental babysitter ever last night, and she ROCKED it. I’m in love. Not to take away from the cast and crew of American Idiot. You fine people should be proud of an accomplishment both remarkable and laudable. Hence the post. But finding a good sitter I trust is too good to be true, even on the Tony Awards. Everyone else in the world: go see Berkeley Rep’s American Idiot. But don’t take my new best friend the babysitter.