Sunday, May 12, 2013

Good Riddance: A Farewell to American Idiot

If you had told me just over three years ago, on April 3, 2010, as I was leaving a preview of American Idiot at the St. James Theatre, that tonight I'd be writing a tribute blog to the show, I'd have said you were nuts.  Completely, totally, out of your mind.

And now, as I look back and re-read my initial review (HERE), I have to smile at how far I've come with this show, literally and figuratively.  Literally, over the past three years, I've traveled hundreds of miles to see the show - 4 cities (New York, Utica, Philadelphia, Baltimore), 8 performances.  Despite my misgivings of that initial preview, I did end the first review saying, "The last show I've thought this much about was Spring Awakening... maybe I liked it more than I thought..."  After much thought and discussion with my best friend, theatre companion and #1 American Idiot fan, Mike, and I returned to the show again (and again, etc.), and, boy, am I glad I did. (Check out all of the reviews we've done of the show by clicking the "Show Reviews" tab at the top and scrolling through the page.)

The Original Broadway Principals

Green Day signs the wall.  I signed it, too!

If ever there was a case for seeing shows several times, Idiot is certainly it:

"Extraordinary Girl"

  • I have come to savor the rich imagery: the heroin ballet between Johnny and Whatsername, the "Zieg Heil" guy atop the bus, the marching figures of "Are We the Waiting," the somber imagery of the cast "falling" during "Wake Me Up When September Ends," and the breathtaking "Extraordinary Girl" sequence.
  • I have come to appreciate the various talents of different performers in the same role:  favorite Johnny, Van Hughes; favorite Will, Justin Guarini; favorite Tunny David Larsen; favorite Whatsername, Rebecca Naomi Jones; favorite Heather, Mary Faber; favorite Extraordinary Girl, Libby Winters; favorite Favorite Son, Joshua Henry; and favorite St. Jimmy, Joshua Kobak.  And, I have to say, that no one in any of the three companies I've seen was bad, or even close to it.  Plus, seeing Billie Joe Armstrong as St. Jimmy was a treat.

Johnny and St. Jimmy: Original Cast

Johnny and St. Jimmy: 1st  National Tour Cast

Johnny and St. Jimmy: 2nd National Tour Cast
Billie Joe Armstrong (left)
Alyssa DiPalma and Alex Nee

  • I really can't express how much I love the musicianship of the show: this kind of music is not generally what I listen to, but, as I've often mentioned here, the OBCR is one that still gets heavy play from me, three years later.  Tom Kitt's arrangements and orchestrations are beautiful and Tony-worthy.  The addition of strings, and careful use of percussion, and even the way the melodies are presented.  And the vocals are brilliant - the harmonies are often glorious to the ears and add much depth. (Just listen to "21 Guns" and "Wake Me Up When September Ends.")
  • And mostly, I have to express my appreciation for the visuals of set designer Christine Jones and Kevin Adams' lighting design.  They both deserved the Tonys they won for their efforts.  That the designs remain so brilliant, even in this second touring company, is a testament to their intelligence and creativity.  That said, I have to say that the lighting works even better on the touring version against a toned down, darker version of the Broadway set. Special recognition for me has to go to Projection Designer Darrel Maloney, whose work reveals its richness and depth with each viewing.

I am glad that my last time seeing the show was with the vastly talented "face of the future' cast, led by the magnetic Alex Nee, the moving performance of Thomas Hettrick as Tunny, and the riveting sensuality of Jenna Rubaii as Extraordinary Girl.  It is not only great that the show remains in such great shape, but that the future of musical theatre is that much clearer and hopeful.

There is the enjoyment of seeing a show you love.  There is the sharing of special live theatre with friends.  There is the joy of new discoveries each time you see a show.  Not many shows offer all three things

Thank you, American Idiot.  I had the time of my life.


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