You’ll love American Idiot... but it’s no musical

By Giles Hardie January 13, 2018
American Idiot trio in spotlights

This Green Day one act-er is Jesus Christ Superstar for the Jesus of Suburbia

Get ready for a night of contrasts.

A night where dinner and a show can see the posh of a bite to eat at Bennelong can be separated by a short walk to a Green Day concert atmosphere...

Where you will find craft beer in the Concert Hall foyer...

And where you will find suited theatre lovers sitting down next to concert t-shirt wearing superfans.

And it all works brilliantly.

American Idiot topless lead

American Idiot is the Tony and Grammy winning “musical” whose Australian production has just landed for a three night run at the Opera House, having garnered rave reviews and award nominations in its Queensland run.

It’s the stage adaptation of Green Day’s seventh album American Idiot, with all their biggest hits added in as well, including a singalong Time of your Life as part of the bows.

But be warned, particularly for theatre buffs, American Idiot is also a cacophony of noise for its first 20 or so minutes that feels largely like a really good cover band has conned their way into a massive concert with a good video producer.

American Idiot three guys one trolley

It notionally sets up the loose plot: Three guys desperate not to be an American Idiot, not to be small town nobodies, are disillusioned with the country they find themselves in and set out to make it in the big cities armed with nothing but their guitars and their wits.

Despite setting itself such a small narrative task, the show makes a mess of it, the story is neglected in a show far more focused on making the Green Day fans in the crowd comfortable and convincing them the change of stage hasn’t killed their buzz.

Fear not however, there IS a story here, a simple tragedy on the face of it, as the three young men make the three most cliched “mistakes” to prevent them being something more - getting a girlfriend pregnant, joining the army and doing drugs.

These are epic failures though, however stereotypical. They are melodramatic in their swift arrival and consequence. They are, in short, operatic.

American Idiot couple

This is not a musical, despite the name. This is a genuine rock opera. It has the notional hallmarks - barely a word of dialogue is spoken; many a lyric is entirely incomprehensible unless you speak the language, which in this case is Green Day.

But this is also an opera in its very nature. A simple, tragic tale of ambition, failure and tragedy writ epically large.

So while the set up is hard work, the pay off is immense and genuinely retcons the first half hour. And its entirely worth the journey as the performances are excellent without exception, the video work is truly amazing and the music is, as you probably already know if you chose to read this far, excellent.

For no matter what your level of acquaintance with the band going in, American Idiot is the rock opera that will remind you of how many hits Green Day have had, surprise you with how versatile they are as a band, and shock you with the amazing brains behind these particular American Idiots.

It’s something unpredictable... but in the end it’s right.

American Idiot sofa

Green Day runs at the Sydney Opera House until Sunday January 14