American Idiot, the musical based on Green Day’s rock opera of 2004, has hit the Broward Centre. It opened on Broadway, ending a year-long run in 2011. This is the third national tour, featuring Jared Nepute in the lead role.
I must congratulate the writer of the Wikipedia entry for finding eight paragraphs to write about the plot. I heard several people leaving the production saying they had no idea what it was about, and the critical comments of Associated Press reviewer Michael Kuchwara seemed to me right on the mark when he wrote the “the show has the barest wisp of a story and minimal character development."
Based on the military sub-plot, some people at the performance thought it was set at the time of the Gulf War. This is possible, as the war started in 2003, but the virtual absence of dialog makes it impossible to pin it down. That may be its saving grace, as it not supposed to be about an event so much as an eternal concept of how three young people face reality.
One goes to war, another stays in the small town, and the third finds love in the big city. These are the tropes that have driven Hollywood since its inception, so it not surprising that American Idiot is currently in pre-production for a movie.
As for the production offered to the Ft. Lauderdale audience, there is little room for criticism, as the ensemble cast deliver a smashing performance against the backdrop of a set that perfectly evokes the grunginess of punk rock, opera-style. The music includes several smash hits that are now part of the American psyche (who can get Boulevard of Broken Dreams out of their head?), and they are all sung to a high standard.
Aside from the energy-laden songs that get most of the attention, I found the ballads When It’s Time and Wake Me Up When September Ends to be real show-stoppers. They are both sung with genuine feeling by Nepute, a 2011 graduate of NYU Steinhardt.
There is eye candy on stage too, with many approving smiles and glances obvious at the appearance of South Florida native Michael Pilato showing off his gorgeous torso in the song Favorite Son.
Regarded philosophically, this modern rock opera portrays on stage what St. Augustine wrote about 1600 years ago. Inner disorder is not obtruded on the will from without; it is its very essence.
Watching American Idiot, it is clear the American opera has evolved into a radically new species since Porgy and Bess began the genre in 1935. Indeed, there seems to be only a tenuous genetic link with the great 20th century operas such as West Side Story. I wonder what Darwin would make of it?
The next musical to be staged at the Broward Center is Ghost, from Apr. 29-May 11. Visit www.browardcenter.org for tickets
Photo of Nepute by Jeremy Daniel