Rock On! “AMERICAN IDIOT” at PBTS

August 1, 2017
3 mins read
Photo by Cathy Jones

PLAYERS BY THE SEA THEATRE REVIEW

Jacksonville Beach’s Players by the Sea and The Lazzarra Family Foundation presented the final show of the 2016 – 2017 season with the punk rock musical “American Idiot.” The production will remain on stage through August 12, 2017. Call 249-0289 or visit playersbythesea.org for additional information and reservations.

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Players is celebrating its 50th year anniversary. The theatre has staged many cutting-edge musicals during past seasons, and done them well. Many readers will remember “Pippin,” “Sweeny Todd,” “Memphis,” “La Cage Aux Folles,” and “Chicago.” With “American Idiot” this community theatre continues to live up to its motto “Players by the Sea – Expect the Unexpected!!!”

American Idiot” is based on a rock album of the same name, which was written by Billie Joe Armstrong for Green Day, his rock band; the band has sold over eighty-five million records. The album was awarded the 2005 Grammy for Best Rock Album. Armstrong launched his work as a Broadway musical in 2010, which ran for a year, and received Tonys for Design and Lighting, and a nomination for Best Musical (which was awarded to “Memphis”).

There are thirty songs, and you can probably come up with an educated guess that the story is about alienated American youth based on a sampling of the titles. They include “City of the Damned,” “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “Give Me Novocain,” “Wake Me Up When September Ends,”  “21 Guns,” and “Letterbomb.”

The plot: Three friends in their twenties who live in a typical suburban setting decide to search for a more authentic life elsewhere. George Bush was President and the country was involved in an armed conflict with Iraq. Johnny (Lucas Kish) goes to the big city and finds drugs and a love interest referred to as “Whatsername” (Isabella Martinez). Tunny (Rodney Holmes) goes off to war, and encounters an Extraordinary Girl (Jessica Alexander). Will (Bryce Cofield) stays home because Heather (Meredith De Silva), his girlfriend, is pregnant. The final named character is St. Jimmy (Jimmy Alexander), a persistent rough-mannered drug dealer. (Note: Because of the fast moving plot, it would have been appropriate and easier for the audience to follow if a synopsis had been included in the program).

The skillful and talented ensemble never stops moving and their energetic dancing compelled the audience to look and listen. They changed their attire so many times we lost count. This extraordinary group included Andrew Sardoni, David Medina, Clayton Riddley, Jamil Abdur-Rahman, Assata Davis, Haley Sweat, Maya Pinfield, Kylie Giliberto, Rachel Jones, and Jillian Poland. One of the best moments was the singing of Brandon Hines and Catie Casey in “Too Much Too Soon.”

Director Jocelyn Geronimo selected this fabulous cast and was also the choreographer of the inspired and challenging dances. She is the theatre’s Educational Director and an accomplished dancer and performer as well.

Production Manager Jereme Raickett and his crew created the set which has the  rear wall covered from top to bottom with newspaper pages and magazine covers. Five television screens mounted within the wall displayed changing scenes that included scenic photographs, American flags, and abstract images.

The lighting designer, Daniel Dungan, attended Douglas Anderson and Boston University. He has an impressive resume which includes work in Scotland, New York, and Washington DC.  He has created a fantastic light show which blends perfectly with the hard-driving music.

The Musical Director, Anthony Felton, has both exceptional voices in this show and a marvelous band, consisting of Greg Hersey (Drums), Sean Tillis (Bass Guitar), David Ott (Guitar), Chelsea Chacon (Piano), and Assata Davis (Violin).

Amy Hancock did the Costume Design, assisted by Sara Beth Gerard-Summers as Costumer. The attire reflected the fashions and lifestyle of the period.

For the second time this season, Players By The Sea has featured photography in the Grune Family Gallery. The photos by Jarrod Rigby, a Jacksonville Beach native, are dramatic and are very much in keeping with the musical’s themes. He is continuing his photography studies at the University of Colorado.

With “American Idiot,” Players is presenting an opportunity to experience a very different type of musical; a rock opera and a dedicated cast with excellent voices that will mesmerize you for almost two hours.

The production staff included: Jocelyn Geronimo (Director/Choreographer, Set Designer); Kerri Alexander Hicks (Assistant Director); Anthony Felton (Musical Director); Jereme Raickett (Production Manager); Daniel Dungan (Lighting Design); Nate Cimmino (Sound Designer); Amy Hancock & Sara Beth Summers (Costumes); Dylan Howick (Stage Manager); Rachel Jones (Dramaturg); Connor Dowd, Maria Gainer, and Ty Lewin (Stage Crew).

– A DUAL CRITICS REVIEW by Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country.

They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.

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