AMERICAN IDIOT Review Roundup

Time for a review roundup of the San Francisco run of American Idiot:

Positive

Jay Barmann at SFist: The music is urgent, driving, and loud. Whatever you feel about Green Day, there’s a theatricality and consistent narrative element to their music that lends itself well to staging, and it’s accomplished in this show with a lot of art and only a little of the cheesiness that many associate with musicals. The story, apart from what we’ve just summarized, is just a sketch. As in a real opera, the audience has to interpret what’s going on through the action most of the time, because it isn’t explicitly spelled out in the lyrics or in dialogue.

(I can’t believe that’s being waved around as a triumph of the show!)

Robert Hurwett at San Francisco Chronicle: The cast and creative crew match the pulsating wall of sound for sheer energy and pump it up with Broadway-quality pipes, stage-rattling, thrashing choreography, flying bodies and walls crammed with pulsating video and projected images…. American Idiot… doesn’t deliver much in the way of character or story. But the rock opera… packs plenty of excitement and entertainment…. It isn’t much of a story, more like concepts imposed upon songs proclaiming nihilistic disillusion. But the songs are vivid, dynamic and in some cases pleasantly melodic. And the packaging is so wildly entertaining it’s almost a complete show by itself.

Mixed

Marcus Crowder at Sacramento Bee: The world premiere… brought rock ‘n’ roll energy and excitement to already innovative theater…. [T]he mostly sung-through play should appeal to an audience that might not have considered musical theater before. As fresh and contemporary as American Idiot feels, it’s not as though new ground has been broken. It’s still a musical with singing, choreographed dancing and an inventive, multitier set…. There’s not much to (the) characters to begin with, and while they do eventually grow, the production’s weakness lies in their lack of compelling development. Little of substance happens, though Mayer creates a continually watchable spectacle in his visual interpretations of the songs.

Christine Borden at SF Appeal: As a so-called “rock opera,” Berkeley Rep’s American Idiot looks good. It sounds good. But what does it all mean? … It is just like watching TV, specifically MTV before it got rid of all its music videos. Songs crash into one another, some without even a dialogue segue. Music video after music video, the show sucks you in. It’s entertaining. It’s jukebox theater…. Unfortunately, all this angst seems a little outdated (and ungrounded, especially considering that you don’t know what the hell is going on or why even).

Leslie Katz at San Francisco Examiner: Will the world-premiere rock opera based on the East Bay band’s monster 2004 album be the savior of live theater for generations to come? Not necessarily. The show has lots going for it: Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool’s quintessentially 21st century score of melodic rock songs, for one major thing…. Yet the story… remains thin. Surface characters, an undeveloped plot, MTV-inspired choreography and costumes that look too much like costumes… at times lend a lack of authenticity and keep viewers at a distance. American Idiot does have its moving moments, particularly with its biggest hits and the most hummable songs…

Negative

Jim Harrington at Silicon Valley Mercury News: There will hopefully come a day when the stage adaptation of American Idiot is seen as just a curious misstep in Green Day’s otherwise highly enjoyable career. Regrettably, the American Idiot musical comes across as a well-intentioned idea… forced into reality…. There are many problems with the actual staging of the play — it’s hard to believe, for example, that Armstrong and Mayer couldn’t come up with a more engaging script — but the main \issue is the music isn’t moving. The grandiose arrangements… are so weighted down with illusions of self-significance that they fail to strike any emotional involvement…. The music sounds processed and stale, handled with kid gloves by way too many players and sung by more than a dozen actors that have rehearsed the original fire right out of the songs.

Some interesting things said. So the story is too thin and the character development poor, but it has energy and (some say) great music. I wonder how it will play on Broadway.

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