Jul 6, 2016

[Theater] Green Day's American Idiot (9 Works Theatrical)

The jukebox musical has become the staple of Broadway in recent years. After the success of shows like Mamma Mia! and Jersey Boys, it seems that any artists with a respectable discography now have the potential to have a Broadway show written around their songs. We saw that done locally with Rak of Aegis, and that worked out pretty well.

Green Day's American Idiot is one of the more recent shows to follow in those footsteps, although the source material was a little unexpected. I mean so far we've mostly adapted more wide-appealing pop artists of a sort, but to create a show based around an alternative punk rock group.

Admittedly I used to be quite the Green Day fan back in the day. But I guess I drifted away from this sort of music after college or thereabouts. So it was a little weird to watch this show since it was largely unfamiliar since I didn't follow the original American Idiot album, but also familiar since Green Day has always had such a distinct sound versus other bands. Sure their songs sometimes sound alike, but you still know it sounds like a Green Day song.

Synopsis: Green Day's Amercan Idiot is a jukebox musical created by Billie Joe Armstrong, the lead vocalist of Green Day. Armstrong of course is credited for lyrics while Green Day as a band is credited for music with the book being a joint project between Armstrong and Michael Mayer. The Manila staging by 9 Works Theatrical was directed by Robbie Guevara and was staged at the Bonifacio High Street Amphitheatre from June 24 - July 10, 2016.

The show begins with a montage of imagery from a post-9/11 world . From here we meet our primary cast, Johnny (Jason Fernandez), Will (Miggy Chavez) and Tunny (Nel Gomez). they're all close to 30 with seemingly no direction in life and they're quite aware that they're a bunch of slackers. One thing leads to another and the three decide to move to the big city and find new lives for themselves there. But just as they're leaving Heather (Alex Godinez) reveals to Will that she's pregnant with his baby and thus he stays behind. In time Tunny decides to enlist while Johnny remains Johnny and on his own he inspires himself with a much cooler alter ego he calls St. Jimmy (Basti Artadi) and so we follow all three of them as they go down their respective paths in life.

Jason Fernandez made for a great Johnny and you could tell that he was really trying to channel that sort of signature Green Day sound in terms of his vocals. Plus he was quite the character on-stage and I really bought into him being the sort of personification of all of our alternative music selves from our school days.

Miggy Chavez had fun moments but at times paled a bit compared to the rest of the cast while Nel Gomez was competent but not quite punk enough and so he felt a little out of place. Chavez may not have had the acting skills for the show, but Gomez had almost the wrong set of skills since he felt a bit too much like traditional theater and wasn't able to really let himself go.

Basti Artadi is Basti Artadi and is both awesome and tricky that he was cast as St. Jimmy. Yes, Basti feels like precisely the larger than life rock figure that would be hard to say no to. But at the same time his vocal style is so distinctly Wolfgang and so whenever he'd sing it stopped being a Green Day musical and became a Battle of the Bands moment with Wolfgang putting up some serious competition. It was a smidge distracting at times but for the most part it was still entertaining.

The show as a whole didn't exactly have some mind-blowing moral of a sort to impart on everyone. As if it was a statement in itself about the seeming aimlessness of the generation or something. At least it wasn't a totally opened-ended sort of deal that we see in some loftier productions. But as a jukebox musical, it naturally includes some miscellaneous singing bits after the show proper.

The only other big issue has to be with the venue and how Globe decided to support this event. The Bonifacio High Street Amphitheatre is an open-air venue with uncomfortable seating spaced way too close to one another so you will get a little intimate with your seatmate. Were it not for the fact it had rained a bit the night we watched I imagine the heat and humidity could get pretty bad. Even worse was the fact that Globe's LCD screens outside the event area broadcast close-ups of the show live so that it was probably more convenient to watch outside without paying for a 2,000 peso ticket. So it felt very inconsiderate of paying patrons and almost like the folks sitting uncomfortably inside indirectly paid for everyone else watching outside. And thus watching a 90+ minute show without an intermission in those seats was a form of physical torture in itself.

Green Day's American Idiot is fun enough production on it own and a rather uniquely American celebration of the recklessness of youth. The cast performed quite well and I only wish that the venue setup wasn't so uncomfortable and somewhat insulting. Thus the show gets 3.5 moments of St. Jimmy being awesome out of a possible 5.

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