For instance, I was surprised that this show was created and performed in 2010. I was surprised when I watched the show and I felt like I should have been seeing it in 1997. I was surprised by the embarassing/thrusting/groaning/mutually-orgasaming sex scene that occurred during a musical montage. I was surprised that all the women in the show managed to be either shrill, controlling bitches, practically naked with no name or magical, perfect imagined beings.
While the show opens with the blaring song American Idiot and while actors bellow “Donwanna be an American Idiot!” – the characters aren’t given a chance to be anything but. In fact, relying on the songs to tell the entire story on stage (there is very little dialog and it often comes by way of monologue – rarely do characters talk to each other) leave very little opportunity to develop characters for the audience to connect to – throughout the event you can’t help but just not give a shit about the characters and instead just think “I remember this song…I guess”. While the show is billed as a “generation of young Americans as they struggle to find meaning in a post 9/11 world” – this seems like the idea Green Day had initially…and then somehow they derailed the mall-punk crazy train somewhere along the way and ended up with RENT-light.
I almost felt bad for the actors at a point – they are so very clearly vocally talented, engaged in the lyrics they are singing, and the choreography is intense with repeated head bangs, jumping, thrusting and kicking during the songs. They were so dedicated to the ‘idea’ of what punk rock kids are that you almost want to lie in a review and say it was an amazing show – just so they get some credit for trying to make a diamond out of the coal they were given. But the emperor has no clothes, alas. Or, I should say, the emperor has Hot Topic as a wardrobe and Avril Lavigne’s stylist threw-up single fingerless gloves, plaid, spandex pants and school girl skirts all of the cast. They did what they could with the material, but in the end it just didn’t work.
The show, as I noted, is just so painfully dated (almost as dated as the music) that I was laughing to myself in my seat. I mean, the show is set in 2010 (a post 9/11 world!) and yet the music, the costumes and the actions of the characters are so passe that I thought at one point it was actually set in the 90’s. I mean, wardrobe aside, the main character (trying not to be an American Idiot, remember) goes off to a bigger city than he was currently residing in, starts doing heroin, and bangs a nameless chick in a drug infused haze. Like I said – RENT-lite. All the stupid decisions club kids make with none of the consequences.
And who does heroin anymore?! ‘Scripts. Meth. COKE! but heroin? Too involved. Too complicated, and you can’t say you sniffed it off a toilet seat in the back of a dive bar to your buddies later that night and laugh about how ‘ca-RAY-zy’ you were that night! DUDE!
Also: magical Arabian moment (cuz, you know guys, the war is in a desert and as such there should be a mention of completely unresearched movie-like assumptions of what ‘desert people’ do) suspended from the ceiling during musical montage (not kidding) nearly made my forehead fall off from the strained “REALLY?!” face I was making the whole time.
Highlights: set design was terrific and the staging was inventive and engaging. Actors gave it their all – bonus points for dedication.
Final Opinion? If you want a rock opera that will suck you in and make you reminisce about your reckless youth and forget about your worries for a night, go see Rock of Ages and actually get an intricate, engaging storyline, amazing performances, laugh out loud comedy and brilliant writing (and you can sing along!). Or, go see RENT again if you really want to see how “youth struggling to find meaning in a post [anything] world” is really done on Broadway.