Staging American Idiot in a Warehouse Makes It Even Less of a Real Musical
American Idiot, performed in a warehouse in the Garment District
American Idiot the musical, which premiered on Broadway in 2010, doesn’t have a coherent plot. Inspired by the 2004 Green Day album of the same name, the band’s lead singer, Billie Joe Armstrong, and director Michael Mayer cobbled together a loosely guided storyline, following three punks from the suburbs as they encounter the real world.
That storyline is more or less present in glory|struck’s production of the show, now playing at a warehouse in the Garment District, but it’s not immediately obvious.
Johnny (a double-cast role, played by James Byous at this performance) and his friends Will (Matt Magnusson) and Tunny (Alec Cyganowski, at this performance) take three different journeys as they come of age: Johnny is seduced by drugs (personified by Caitlin Ary) and a woman (Lindsay Pearce), while Will is trapped at home with a pregnant girlfriend (Briana Cuoco), and Tunny joins the army. All three men walk their lonely roads, filled with rage and love.
Unfortunately, aside from that skeletal plot, there’s not much dramatic substance in this production, directed by Topher Rhys and Jen Oundjian. Their American Idiot comes across more as a series of music videos performed live than a fully realized musical.
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The cast sounds great under Elmo Zapp’s musical direction, singing Tom Kitt’s beautiful arrangements of Green Day classics such as “Holiday” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” with a tremendous sense of vivacity. But that vivacity gets lost in the warehouse setting. Most of the action takes place on a stage in front of the audience, but there are also platforms around the space where characters momentarily appear and sing to one another. This harms the storytelling more than it helps, forcing audience members to contort into uncomfortable positions to see what’s happening. When the actors are so far apart, they feel disconnected from each other, and also from the audience.
When the show keeps the action on the stage, though, it’s something to behold. The cast’s effort fuels this intermissionless, 90-minute show, as their eyes are made raccoonlike by their sweaty, smudged eyeliner.
The uptempo songs have an amazing sense of immediacy to them, as if they’re primal yells augmented into music.
But in the end, it’s still a series of songs — a lot of fun, but not quite theater.
The Vortex Warehouse, 2341 E. Olympic Blvd.., downtown; through June 7. americanidiotlosangeles.com.
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