Ad: [ ? ]

Friday, March 27

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr

« Collision of Pop Culture Ox-Bow Winter Benefit: THE Winter Art Party »

Theatre Wed Feb 08 2012

Review: American Idiot


Rock operas and punk rock concept albums have both been around for decades, but it took Green Day singer/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong to finally combine the two. Co-written and directed by Tony Award winner Michael Mayer, American Idiot -- based on the Green Day album of the same name -- follows three bored, 20-something friends and the differing life paths they take: one stays in the suburbs, one joins the army, and one moves to the big city to follow his rock 'n' roll dreams.

...At least, that's what I could make of the plot. Through choreographed song performances and the occasional non-musical monologue, the characters' storylines are told through a melodramatic collage of anti-Bush/pro-"revolutionary" sentiment, middle-class white male angst, and sloppy Christian allegory (a la "Jesus of Suburbia"). By the end of the production, I wasn't sure what exactly it was trying to say.

Conceptual vagueness aside, American Idiot is a fast-paced, high-energy audiovisual spectacle. The lighting, choreography, set design, and on-stage live band playing the music worked incredibly well together, and what could have ended up an extra-long music video outtake or episode of "Glee" was instead an upbeat, yet intensely raw performance.

And although it was initially weird to hear Armstrong's voice imitated by a cast of male and female musical theater performers, it turns out Green Day's music sounds great on a Broadway stage. On one hand, most of the solo vocal performances sounded weak in comparison to the drums and amplified guitars. But when the cast sang in unison, it brought a new level of energy and emotional heft to the original songs, and in some ways highlighted the band's songwriting chops better than their actual recordings.

Van Hughes, who plays the main character, "Johnny," brought an infectious enthusiasm to both his spoken and vocal duties. What impressed me the most were several scenes where he had to sing and play guitar at the same time. While no one in the cast was noticeably bad, I felt Hughes' performance was a step above everyone else's, and really anchored the show.

American Idiot does exactly what musical theater should, but not much more than that. Despite efforts to wear its socio-political commentary on its sleeve, the performance is best enjoyed without thinking too hard about what you're seeing.

American Idiot runs Tuesdays through Sundays through February 19 at the Oriental Theatre (24 W. Randolph). Tickets start at $35 and can be purchased online, at the box office, or by calling 312-977-1700.


j_in_chi / February 11, 2012 8:35 PM

I couldn't agree more. I just saw it and enjoyed it immensely. Though it had little narrative, I still walked away feeling like I had seen a show. The book was painted in broad impressionist strokes by music and imagery rather than by dialogue.

I am going to be careful not to give away anything, but some things to look out for. A drinking pregnant woman and her I-told-you-so friend harping on the husband. A LOT of well-endowed people in their underwear. A beautiful dream scene in a military hospital of some US-invaded sandbox. Some realistically acted bedroom movements (Closer to R than to PG-13). an exquisite dance with rubber hoses. Actual singing of harmony (unlike that Witchy musical that had about as much harmony as Bananarama.) A funny nod to the band being bad (they are far from bad!), and finally some of the best synchronization in the dancing that I have ever seen.

The show is kids, all kids, with no "adults" whatsoever, but merely a nod to some unseen parents. Their youthful energy explodes off of the stage and spills over the audience. The story is about 3 ostensibly common paths of young adulthood in America. The protagonists find increasing suffering as they delay an inevitable "adult life." In what I am sure was an unintended moral message, the American Idiots get a taste of how bad their lives can become when they fail to follow the American Plan.

Some minor complaints:
-Would it kill ya to have an intermission?
-At the end there is someone dancing who logically shouldn't be dancing. But this might just be a "Dorothy, it was all a dream" moment.
-I really wanted to pump my arms and sing along, but I felt that the old fogies around me wouldn't stand for it. Staging it at the Vic or Metro would have helped :)
-I think vizio (a sponsor) could have had a few larger screens for those of us that sat near the back.

Add a Comment

Please enter the letter r in the field below:

Live Comment Preview

Notes & Tags

Items marked with a * are required fields. Please respect each other. We reserve the right to delete any comments borne out of douchebaggery or that deal in asshattery.

Permitted tags and how to use them:

To link: <a href="">Link text</a>
To italicize: <em>Your text</em>
To bold: <strong>Your text</strong>

Art Mon Feb 23 2015

Doris Salcedo: Where Lives are More Than Data @ The Museum of Contemporary Art

By S. Nicole Lane

Visually powerful, elegantly arranged, and rich with conversation, the MCA has welcomed sculptor Doris Salcedo in a retrospective that spans her 30-year career.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Mar 27 2015

Get Hard; Serena; Danny Collins; Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter & Algren

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


An Angry White Guy
AREA Chicago
ArchitectureChicago Plus
Arts Engagement Exchange
The Art Letter
Art or Idiocy?
Art Slant Chicago
Art Talk Chicago
Bad at Sports
Bite and Smile
Brian Dickie of COT
Bridgeport International
Carrie Secrist Gallery
Chainsaw Calligraphy
Chicago Art Blog
Chicago Art Department
Chicago Art Examiner
Chicago Art Journal
Chicago Artists Resource
Chicago Art Map
Chicago Art Review
Chicago Classical Music
Chicago Comedy Examiner
Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago Daily Views
Chicago Film Examiner
Chicago Film Archives
Chicago Gallery News
Chicago Uncommon
Contemporary Art Space
Co-op Image Group
Co-Prosperity Sphere
Chicago Urban Art Society
Creative Control
Devening Projects
DIY Film
The Exhibition Agency
The Flatiron Project
F newsmagazine
The Gallery Crawl...
Galerie F
The Gaudy God
Happy Dog Gallery
Homeroom Chicago
I, Homunculus
Hyde Park Artcenter Blog
Joyce Owens: Artist on Art
Julius Caesar
Kasia Kay Gallery
Kavi Gupta Gallery
Rob Kozlowski
Lookingglass Theatre Blog
Lumpen Blog
Mess Hall
Neoteric Art
Not If But When
Noun and Verb
On Film
On the Make
Peanut Gallery
Peregrine Program
The Poor Choices Show
Pop Up Art Loop
The Post Family
The Recycled Film
Reversible Eye
Rhona Hoffman Gallery
Roots & Culture Gallery
The Seen
Sisterman Vintage
Site of Big Shoulders
Sixty Inches From Center
Soleil's To-Do's
Sometimes Store
Stop Go Stop
Storefront Rebellion
TOC Blog
Theater for the Future
Theatre in Chicago
The Franklin
The Mission
The Theater Loop
Thomas Robertello Gallery
Time Tells Tony Wight Gallery
Uncommon Photographers
The Unscene Chicago
The Visualist
Western Exhibitions
What's Going On?
What to Wear During an Orange Alert?
You, Me, Them, Everybody
Zg Gallery



Fri Mar 27 2015
A Screendance Event @ Mana Contemporary

Fri Mar 27 2015
Led Kaapana & Mike Kaawa @ Old Town School

Fri Mar 27 2015
Redletter @ Neo-Futurists

Fri Mar 27 2015
Theater Oobleck's Song about Himself

Fri Mar 27 2015
Funny Ha-Ha: Hope Springs Eternal @ Hideout

Fri Mar 27 2015
Dance Anywhere Event

Sat Mar 28 2015
Redletter @ Neo-Futurists

Sat Mar 28 2015
Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-90) @ The Vic

Sat Mar 28 2015
Louder than a Bomb Team Finals @ Arie Crown Theater

Sat Mar 28 2015
Kren Cytter @ The Museum of Contemporary Art

Sun Mar 29 2015
Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-90) @ The Vic

Sun Mar 29 2015
WildClaw Theatre benefit @ Four Moon Tavern

Sun Mar 29 2015
Beat Swap Meet Chicago @ Empty Bottle

A/C on Flickr

Join the A/C Flickr Pool.

About A/C

A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: LaShawn Williams,
A/C staff inbox:



A/C Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15


Sign up for our free email newsletter I Star Chi and get a weekly round-up of the best of Gapers Block, plus our picks for must-do events each weekend!


Preferred format    Preferred format