Thursday, March 27, 2014

"American Idiot" at Broward Center


Insert Ear Plugs for “American Idiot”

By Skip Sheffield

Fair Warning: “American Idiot” is more rock concert than musical theater.
The management thoughtfully provides earplugs at Broward Center, where this rock opera by Green Day runs through April 6.
I give this warning for older theater-goers who may be unfamiliar with Green Day or the genre of punk rock. “American Idiot” is performed quickly without intermission in about 90 minutes, but some people bailed anyway.
On the other hand I was acquainted with Green Day and the concept album that inspired “American Idiot.”  Some of the tunes, all composed by guitarist Billy Joe Armstrong with additional lyrics by Armstrong’s band mates Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool, became big radio hits.
The original concept by Billy Joe Armstrong has been fleshed out by original Broadway director Michael Mayer ("Spring Awakening." Armstrong added additional songs from the Green Day catalog from “21st Century Breakdown” and a B side called “When It’s Time.”
The first thing you notice about the set is multiple television screens from floor to ceiling. That’s because the story is set in “Jingletown, USA,” where everyone watches TV incessantly. The frustration of the youth of Jingletown is expressed in the first song, “American Idiot.” Johnny (Jared Nepute) is trying to cheer up his buddy Will (Casey O’Farrell). They are joined by Tunny (Dan Tracy) to smoke dope and drink beer while they sing self-explanatory disaffected songs like “Jesus of Suburbia,” “City of the Damned” and “I Don’t Care.” A girl named Heather (Mariah McFarlane) joins the group to sing “Dearly Beloved,” and all join in on “Tales of Another Broken Home.”
Subplots, such as they are, involve Tunny’s ill-fated enlistment in the Army and his subsequent romance with Extraordinary Girl (Taylor Jones); Johnny’s coping with his drug-craving alter ego St. Jimmy (Carson Higgins); Johnny’s infatuation with a mystery girl he calls Whatsername (Olivia Puckett), and Will and Heather’s rocky transition to parenthood when she becomes pregnant.
Everyone’s dashed dreams are expressed in the tenderest ballad, “Wake Me Up When September Ends.”
The show features an onstage band led by a most animated conductor and keyboardist (including accordion), Evan Jay Newman.
While “American Idiot” does not have a conventional happy ending, don’t make the mistake of running out early, because the coolest guitar-intense number and best Green Day song are saved for a final encore.
Tickets are $34.50-$79.50, including earplugs, and you would be wise to use them. Call 954-462-0222 or go to


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