Ending its UK tour at our very own HMV Hammersmith Apollo is the vigorous, head-banging tribute to teenage angst American Idiot, a musical using many hits from the American punk rock band Green Day's resume, mostly from their peak in popularity in 2004 and the release of the album of the same name. Think metal spiked belts with chains, gelled hair with a flash of colour, baggy t-shirts with purposefully clumsy tears, eyeliner on both sexes and plenty of sticking it to the man.
As with many musicals using a ready-made concept album as its score, the plot is hardly the main event; however, American Idiot does a great job of taking on many of the issues tackled in Green Day's music, such as drug addiction, the corruption of American society, the war on terror and sexual pleasure. Dealing with these issues are three laid back, beer drinking dudes: Johnny, Tunny and Will from Jingletown USA, whose separate journeys take them to places where the songs become appropriately apparent. Johnny (played by Alex Nee, who performs with fantastic homage to Green Day's singer Billy Joe Armstong, who collaborated with the production) moves to the big city, falls in love with a beautiful punkette who spends most of the time scantily clad (how could any guy resist) and discovers the St Jimmy (mirrored by Trent Saunders) of himself by becoming addicted to the pleasures of heroin. Johnny's drug addled story leaves room for some breathtaking, dream-like choreography from the award winning Steven Hogget, as does Thomas Hettrick's Tunny who makes the decision to join the army with as much loss in limb as gain in spirit.
Hettrick's time in mid-air with his new love is one of the most surprisingly fitting moments, despite the band's too-cool-for-school image. Who says you can't have harmonising and artistic dance display alongside lyrics that are so often only accompanied by a head bang and a sign of the horns in any modern rock club? Casey O'Farrell completes the trio as well-meaning Will, who sacrifices his travelling adventures to stay at home with his accidentally pregnant girlfriend, who eventually so charmingly leaves him for a sickeningly successful rockabilly, hilariously played by just one of the high energy ensemble cast, who so easily fill the huge space of the Apollo with punk-filled aggression and passion.
American Idiot was a number one album that created a rock opera around the legendary "Jesus of Suburbia", and this musical expands that concept with all of the stadium filling techniques of great musicals today: from fourth wall breaking, desperately heart-wrenching recitals to ensemble powerful routines to artfully choreographed moments that bring the story back to earth and highlight changing times (and all of those moments when a cry for novocaine seems the only solution).
For those who haven't heard of Green Day or any of their songs: firstly, I'm sorry to hear that, and also, you may not enjoy the show as much as those who visibly rose in their seats at the beginning chords of "Wake Me Up When September Ends" and those who rather distractingly found themselves singing along to the gorgeous "Whatsername". The musical is doing a great job of reigniting the love for the band and the love for this musical genre. It's a rocking couple of hours that leaves you wanting to dig out your old tour hoody and wear it down to the office instead of your uptight conformist winter coat, with a rebellious smile on your face and horns shaped secretively in your pockets. Good times.