Saturday, March 24, 2012

American Idiot - March 24, 2011 - Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles, CA

This production of American Idiot impressed me. Typically, I strongly prefer London or Broadway productions over the national tours, but this particular show was executed particularly well.

I last saw American Idiot in July 2010, with the most impressive John Gallegher Jr as Johnny and Tony Vincent as St Jimmy. In this production, Van Hughes (who took over on Broadway) and Scott J Campbell as Tunny were particularly impressive.

The music is of course the main draw of the play. I still think the book is on the weak side and director Michael Mayer's decision to excise some dialog to let the music shine still rankles me. Not that I don't enjoy a rock opera, but a persisten drumbeat of nihilistic rage can IMHO be buttressed by some choice prose sans angry ennui.

Nonetheless, I am stunned that they crammed most of that enormous set from the St James theatre on Broadway into a traveling show. I still love the way the actors move an enormous scaffold, transforming it from a rock altar to a bus in mere moments.

I thought St Jimmy wasn't as menacing and evil under Joshua Kobak, but because of that, it was more apparent (despite the weak dialogue) that St Jimmy was really Johnny's expressed Id. I don't know why I didn't notice their matching jackets at the nightclub before, but in this production it helped highlight the psychological problems that a drug addled youth experiences.

Dancing still stellar. I love the choreography, especially during the sensual and scary scene with the drugs. And of course, who can't express elation - fantasy or not - at a good aerial ballet between Tunny and Extraordinary Girl.

One thing struck me with this cast in particular. Hughes, Campbell and Kobak had abs and bods of steal. Nice as eye candy, but Johnny and St Jimmy just don't strike me as characters who would think of doing crunches all day long. A small distraction, but it did affect my view of the characters.

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