After 15 years as a web editor, I am hardly qualified to review musical theater. My experience at the opening night of "American Idiot" in Raleigh was simply visceral.
Green Day's evolution as an alternative-punk band at the turn of the century was capped by the mega-success of the "American Idiot" CD, released in 2004. "Idiot" spoke to the uncertainty of coming of age in a post-9/11 world, where the dreams and rebellion of young adulthood bump up against the realities of terrorism and economic stagnation.
Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong put that angst into an unusual phenomenon for the iPod generation – an album that tells a story.
I've been waiting to see "Idiot" since I heard it a musical was in the works, and it did not disappoint.
Green Day wrote a couple of additional songs for the musical, most famously "21 Guns" off the follow-up "21st Century Breakdown" CD, but this show is all "Idiot," from the lights-up sonic blast to start the show through the acoustic encore of "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life" off the 1997 Nimrod album.
There is no intermission in "American Idiot," and the rock does not stop. There are few spoken words and very little dialogue between the characters. The lyrics, the set and the movement of the actors contribute to move the plot along as three friends – Johnny, Will and Tunny – make the choices that reflect frustration and temptation of youth.
The adult themes are very adult. This isn't a show for middle schoolers, even if they love the music. In 90 minutes, the cast takes on unexpected pregnancy, drug use, patriotism, drudgery, war and finally homecoming.
The pace and the pounding beats, the visual stimulation of 20+ screens and the energy of the ensemble contribute to an experience that leaves actors breathless and the audience exhilarated.
American Idiot runs through Sunday at Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts - Raleigh Memorial Auditorium.