PLAYING AROUND

‘American Idiot’ Packs Punk

The play works for fans of musical theater and Green Day

"American Idiot"
John Daughtry
Posted

7:30 p.m. May 15

Times-Union Center for Performing Arts' Moran Theater, 300 Water St., Downtown

Tickets: $27-$102

442-2929

artistseriesjax.org

It is as grungy as a musical can get. “American Idiot” satisfies both musical theater afficionados and hardcore Green Day fans. 

The show opens with the entire cast performing the anthemic, energetic “American Idiot” number. The carefully crafted staging achieves the raw angst and haphazard look appropriate for the punk rock spirit. The actors give passionate performances and stay true to the Green Day sound. 

Adapted from the Green Day album, “American Idiot” follows the lives of three friends, Johnny (Alex Nee), Tunny (Thomas Hettrick) and Will (Casey O’Farrell). The young men desperately try to throw off the suffocating blanket of suburbia only to realize that life outside of their comfort zone is even less forgiving. 

The somewhat scattered storyline parallels the life of Johnny. However, the plot is held together by the letters he sends home, which we hear through Johnny’s soliloquies.

Early in the story, Will, Tunny, and Johnny pack their bags and set off to leave their hometown. However, Will learns his girlfriend, Heather (Kennedy Caughell), is pregnant and is forced to stay behind. Farrell's electric performance connects with the audience during “Jesus of Suburbia.” 

The friends' paths continue to diverge when Tunny joins the Army and Johnny is seduced by drugs, developing a hardcore addiction personified as St. Jimmy. 

St. Jimmy (Trent Saunders) is introduced in a larger-than-life musical number, where nearly 30 TV screens display the live performance from different stage angles. This was one of many memorable numbers throughout the 95-minute play along with “Are We the Waiting” and “Letterbomb.” 

Preceded by a letter written from Johnny to his mother on Sept. 10, “Wake Me Up When September Ends” was an especially moving number. Through choreography, the ensemble captures the eerie feeling of falling past what appeared to be windows, giving new meaning to the song’s lyrics: “As my memory rests/ but never forgets what I lost/ wake me up when September ends.” 

The story closes appropriately with “Whatsername,” with a montage of some of the major scenes from earlier in the performance. This serves as a walk down memory lane for both the characters and the audience, depicting some of the struggles the characters overcome. 

“American Idiot” is appropriately punk rock with a lively cast and the classic Green Day music that became the soundtrack for the 1990s.

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