I love the theater. I also love rock concerts. I do not, however, love going to the theater and finding that I’m seeing a rock concert. It makes me feel duped. Not my favorite feeling.
But it’s exactly the feeling I had after having seen Green Day’s "American Idiot." They bill it as a groundbreaking Broadway musical. But it didn’t feel groundbreaking. It felt like a highly theatricalized tribute concert, albeit a tribute concert with an incredibly talented cast, innovative choreography, and dramatic set and lighting design.
But the show itself, well, it’s not so much a show as a series of songs that, other than being from the same album, don’t pull together to create any real story line.
In fact, any story line there is seems to be pulled directly from other shows, including "Hair" and perhaps a little from "Rent." The thing is, in both of those shows I cared about and felt connected to the characters because the shows gave me an opportunity to know the characters.
I felt none of that from "American Idiot." It’s not that I don’t understand the show. I get the gist of it. There are three guys: one who goes off to live the dream and ends up doing drugs and shacking up with some girl; one who gets his girlfriend pregnant and then plays house with her till she leaves him; and one who joins the army only to lose a leg.
They all feel dazed and confused and pretty disappointed at what awaits them in the "real world." But that’s what all kids go through and without anything more than that there isn’t, well, anything more than that.
So other than a bummed out threesome, I got nothing. It felt forced and contrived and honestly, unnecessary. The music is incredible and the cast performing it is stellar. The rest is just perplexing window-dressing. The thing is, a fabulous live music video does not a Broadway show make, not to my mind any way.
I get the whole "I don’t want to be a regular guy living in the suburbs, I want more "thing." But it’s not new and it’s certainly not unique. And I understand the whole "down with war" thing. I don’t like war any more than the next guy. I do, however, believe we should all support our soldiers. You won’t mind that support here.
Predictably, by the end of the show, the friends hug their war-injured friend, despite his joining the ranks; the father is reunited with his baby; and the drug addict returns home and gets a desk job. It’s too tidy and too thin. That goes for the ending as well as the show as a whole.
I don’t know. Maybe I might have cared if there were some relationship and character building at the beginning. But I just didn’t, especially when an actress dressed in what looked to be a burka stripped down to an "I Dream of Jeannie" costume and did aerial tricks with the wounded soldier. I just didn’t get it.
The final moments of the night were the best of the entire evening. The whole cast came out with guitars and sang "Good Riddance" and for one moment I saw a glimpse of what this show could have and should have been -- one killer tribute concert sans the extraneous, teenage angst dressing.
"American Idiot" runs through May 20 at the Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora Street in Dallas. For tickets call 214-880-0202 or visit http://www.attpac.org.