The Tony-award winning punk/pop musical roared into town on Tuesday with its mix of anger, angst and apathy firmly in place.
More than a few blue-hairs couldn't leave quick enough, exiting the theater shortly after the loud and frantically-energetic opening number that shares its name with the show's title.
Yes, the musical, featuring music by the band Green Day, is not your grandmother's Broadway musical. Or your mother's, for that matter. If you're not a fan of Green Day or visually abstract musicals with almost no dialogue or character development, you'll probably want to save your money for "South Pacific" (that classic chestnut hits town next week). If you are, however, feeling adventurous, spend some time with this "Idiot."
Is the show loud? Absolutely. Things begin with a slew of high-definition TV sets placed all around the jungle gym-like set begin spewing a steady flash of images, information and sound bites. It's meaning is clear: today's youth is suffering from a serious case of information overload. The only way to drowned out the madness is to raise your only angry voice.
And it isn't as if anyone can blame today's youth from being slight anxious or angry. The American dream of upward mobility has pretty much been layed to final rest with the Great Depression 2.0. This show was made for the recent college graduate who is jobless/under-employed and forced to move back home with the 'rents.
The show centers around a trio of best buds. Johnny (the somewhat goofy Van Hughes), Tunny (a somewhat stoic Scott J. Campbell) and Will (an appropriately sad and apathetic Jake Epstein) who all share a common dream of getting the heck out of their small suburban town.
Even before the last guitar chords of "Jesus of Suburbia" (the show's second song) have been struck, there's a man down. Will's high school sweetheart (the clarion-voiced Leslie McDonel) is pregnant and Will gets left behind.
Life in the big city isn't all it's cracked up to be, of course. It is only a matter of time before Tunny is joining the army and Johnny develops a drug habit and drags the love of his life down with him (Johnny is so drugged out, he doesn't even know the girl's name).
The most harrowing imagery of the night comes during one of Green Day's least rock-sounding songs, the soulful ballad "Wake Me Up When September Ends." As Johnny pines for some sleep-induced apathy (while trying to kick heroine, natch), the world around him literally explodes. Images of sheets of falling office paper are projected on the walls of the set and are soon followed by choreography that has most of the ensemble falling, too. The 9/11 imagery succeeds in bringing up all those feelings from more than a decade ago; scars that even the loudest of voices can't cover up.
Here we have a show that is very much of au courant. Unfortunately, because of that fact it is nearly free of any perspective as well. The actors are more charicatures than characters. They are painted so generically, that you can only sit and watch in numbness as the visual spectacle unfolds in front of you. Today's youth may have a lot to say, but it might be better served if is stopped talking if only for a moment to also listen and observe.
"American Idiot" plays the Oriental Theatre through Feb. 19. Tickets, $27-$95. (800) 775-2000. broadwayinchicago.com or americanidiotthemusical.com