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Review - Green Day’s American Idiot: still a show for the times

Above: QPAC Executive Director Ross Cunningham, Jackie Trad, Qld Deputy Premier and shake&stir Artistic Director Nick Skubij

Right: Xanthe Coward, Josh Mackintosh, the show's designer and his wife Sarah.

Opening night pictures by Deanne Scott. More follow the review.

Green Day’s American Idiot

Music by Green Day

Lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong

Book by Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer

Directed by Craig Ilott

Choreographer Lucas Newland

Musical Director Glenn Moorhouse

Season: February 25-March 12. Bookings on or 136 346

I guess I am more for Prokofiev than Punk rock, but the magical thing about music is that whatever the genre if it is good it will resonate. Green Day’s version of punk is good. It is loud and raucous as anything the Sex Pistols released back in the 70s, but the lyrics are kinder, more politically real and the protests of the original album back in the 2004 were aimed at a desperate US situation.

Shake&stir created a completely new sound system for the Playhouse Theatre and it worked brilliantly; the music was Punk-loud, but not enough to hurt (well not much anyway) the ears and the lyrics, came over with great clarity in most cases.

On top of that Josh Macintosh’s set and the amazing lighting and video effects from Matthew Marshall and Brisbane’s brilliant Optikal Bloc helped to create the perfect backdrop for the story.

As well as the music we had some terrific choreography from Lucas Newland plus some spectacular aerial work.

Although the album related strongly to the times, it did not go unnoticed how things haven’t changed and Donald Trump has been added to the theme easily and with power.

Even the lines from the title song could relate to what is happening now in the US:

Well maybe I'm the faggot America

I'm not a part of a redneck agenda

Now everybody do the propaganda

And sing along to the age of paranoia

American Idiot follows the story of Jesus of Suburbia, Johnny, who is divided between "rage and love," and his Alter-ego St Jimmy who pops swaggeringly in and out of the action. Through its plot, the album tells of the disillusionment of a generation that grew up in an era dominated by the George W Bush administration and the Iraq War.

The concept album was inspired by stage musicals and the work of The Who,. which explains the 1970s feel to the music.

It was a smash hit and its themes of alienation and frustration after 9/11 are shown through the story of three boyhood friends, Johnny, Tunny and Will, whose boredom leads them to pointless vandalism. They run away from the small-town Jingletown to the city and each teenager forges his own path.

Tunny is seduced by images of power and patriotism fed through TV screens that emerge from the walls and corners of the set, and enlists in the army; Will, stays home alone living in a haze of boredom and beer to deal with his impending fatherhood; while Johnny, who boasts about his lack of hygiene, is a swaggering rebel and heroin-addict who is basically the narrator.

The narration is very sparse too, with just enough words to take the show from being an arena-type spectacular of the album. It takes up just a few minutes in the 90 minutes of relentless sound.

The cast is superb and apparently shake&stir had 700 people audition for the show – and so they came up with the best. They snared the cream with two Aussie rock legends picked to play St Jimmy – Chris Cheney of The Living End (who played the opening night early show) and Phil Jamieson of Grinspoon.

Johnny was played by musical theatre newbie Ben Bennett with style and a great voice, but then Alex Jeans as the sofa-bound Will and Cameron Macdonald as Tunny were just as good with terrific song interpretation and acting.

The women were top rate too with Ashleigh Barlow and Heather, Phoebe Panaretos as Whatsername and Rowena Vilar the Extraordinary Girl.

No-one pulled up short and while we were all celebrating the opening, they were back on stage to do it all again. What a crew! And congratulations to shake&stir for having the guts to produce the show and for QPAC for backing them.

The music is LOUD and the audience lives through 90 minutes of relentless noise. The exposure affected my inner ear and the following day woke up with an attack of vertigo, so be warned older people.

Rosemary Walker, shake&stir Artistic Director Ross Balbuziente and playwright Elise Greig

Nick Skubil (above) and Jacki Trad

Below: Nelle Lee, shake&stir Artistic Director with Eric Scott

The Cast:

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