The award-winning musical takes to the stage of Manchester’s Palace Theatre for its 10th anniversary UK tour, 15 years after Green Day’s original album.
The opening scene propels us back to 12th September in the wake of the World Trade Centre attack. Clips of news reports flicker on a television screen building the anticipation in the crowd. The intro to American Idiot starts to play and the cast bursts on stage. The punchy rendition of the title track is gripping and draws the audience in.
Throughout, the soundtrack of Green Day’s concept album takes us back to that early noughties, punk-rock period where heavy eyeliner, ripped tights and coloured hair was the norm. The audience, littered with leather jackets and Green Day t-shirts, receives back-to-back hits such as Holiday, Boulevard of Broken Dreams and Wake Me Up When September Ends, supported by a live 4-piece band on the top tier the stage.
We follow the story of 3 friends who are struggling to find their place in the world. Sick of the same old suburban life, they escape down very different paths where they each face their own battles of drug addiction, fatherhood and war.
Our central character is Johnny (Tom Milner), the self-proclaimed ‘Jesus of Suburbia’. Milner portrays the angsty, yet vulnerable anti-hero. He belts out song after song driven by his struggles with addiction and love. Whilst there is minimal dialogue, instead letting the songs form the narrative, our protagonist often speaks to the crowd in between songs as if he is writing home to tell the tales of his new life.
Johnny’s love interest Whatsername, played by X Factor’s Sam Lavery, had striking vocals that sent shivers down my spine. Her character peaked during her feisty performance of Letterbomb, where the toxicity of their relationship came to an head in one last loud and abrasive performance.
The dark side of the tale shows in the character of St. Jimmy who leads Johnny down the rabbit hole of self-destruction. Excellently portrayed by another X Factor alumnus, Luke Friend, St. Jimmy is a sordid degenerate with questionable morals. Friend’s powerful, raspy vocal fits perfectly with his heroin-addicted, party-boy character.
The show reached an end with the whole cast taking part in a sing-a-long style performance of ‘Good Riddance (The Time of Your Life)’, building into a crescendo of frantic clapping as everyone applauded the talent of the cast and band.
Rock opera fans – there couldn’t be a show that’s more for you. And if you’re a Green Day die-hard, there is nothing to fear with American Idiot. The show truly does Green Day’s titular album justice, bringing a whole new level to their legacy with a whole new way to experience it. The musical manages to breath new life into its dark themes of drug-addiction, despair and youthful rebellion, soundtracked by anthemic songs and energetic performances that will get everyone moving.