There's several ways I could open this entry on Berkeley Rep's American Idiot but I'm having a hard time choosing. So let's try it this way: Tony Vincent wore glitter eyeshadow, Matt Caplan flew through the air and John Gallagher Jr. wore a plaid shirt. I say: home run. On a less campy note, Green Day's rock opera, which opened in September and has been extended until November 15th, is an extraordinary piece of theatre.
Following a group of friends, Johnny (Gallagher), Tunny (Caplan) and Will (Michael Esper), the young boys of American want to leave Jingletown for an adventure, away from their listlessly mundane lives. Johnny and Tunny leave without Will, whose girlfriend has found out she's expecting, and proceed to go out on their "Holiday". Tunny is persuaded to join the army after viewing a visually stunning advertisement ("Favorite Son"), while Johnny meets his savior in drugs, St. Jimmy (Tony Vincent). When he meets Whatshername (at this performance it was Morgan Weed), he dives deeper into the the realm of drugs. While St. Jimmy provides this newest escape for Johnny and Whatshername, Tunny is sent off to war, injured and meets his "extraordinary girl". This song, provides one of the most exciting staging of the play, both Caplan and Christina Sajous, are suspended in the air, maneuvering high above the Roda Theatre while singing the song. After a coming of senses, and a homecoming of sorts, the three boys of Jingletown come back from their extraordinary adventure.
Almost completely a sing-through style of musical, American Idiot, proves that the rock opera is not dead. The 90 minute show, without an intermission, with direction by Spring Awakening director Michael Mayer, was 90 minutes of captivating direction, choreography, musical direction and arrangement, and a thrilling set design.
Taking in my surrounding of Berkeley Rep, I was in awe of how beautiful their facility was. With an annual budget of 11 million (according to TCG), they utilize and take great pride in their property. The courtyard off to the side of the theatre provided a great gathering place for patrons to enjoy a pre-show drink (with heated tables) and a post-show conversation ground with fellow audience members and the cast.
Now let's talk audience: two different types at Friday's evening performance. The older, who seemed to be subscribers, were seen either bobbing their heads along or showing extreme quizzical expressions as to what was happening on stage. While, the music is over powering some times, it can be hard to hear the lyrics, I was surprised by how many of the older audience members seemed to be enjoying the performance. Now, the younger crowd seemed to be there in support of Green Day (many wore the band's t-shirt) and the cast. The responses from this generation were extremely vocal throughout the performance, some even raising their arms in the air in favor of what they were seeing on stage.
So what's next. With Berkeley Rep extending the run twice, where is life after California? Will this show have an audience on Broadway. I think most definitely yes but what is most important is will this show have a theatre to call it home. With the onslaught of new shows opening this fall, will there be a theatre open in the spring and will that theatre want American Idiot to occupy it?
If this cast transfers, along with every ounce of this production, it should settle in nicely on the east coast. With reminiscence of Hair, Spring Awakening and Rent, American Idiot has the opportunity to become the latest Broadway smash.
Tony Vincent and me post-show. So good to see him on stage again!
While in my Entertainment Law class, I stumbled on Facebook (what, like you've never done that before?) and found the latest into the Usnavi YouTube video series. And oh boy, ladies and gentlemen is a hot one.
I think we all know my excitement for this tour and to see the new cast along with Lin, Robin and Karen passing the torch to the new community - hot hot. No other words. Watch.
Finally, the Off-Broadway show that I fell for last spring will have its cast recording released! The question is when will it be released. As for now, it's still TBA but there will be a listening party next week. Makes me wish I was still in the city to attend. Anyway, here the details for anyone who wants to attend.
Join us at: Sweet Caroline's 322 West 45th Street (between 8th and 9th Ave) New York, NY 10036
Wednesday, Oct 14th, 2009 at 8:30 pm
Go to http://www.nymf.org/Show-1240.html to purchase tickets
$15.00 + one drink minimum
This special event is presented by the New York Musical Theatre Festival and Van Hill Entertainment. Cast album coming soon on Time Life Records.
Now playing at New York Theatre Workshop is the docu-drama Aftermath, which tells the story of Iraqi refugees who have relocated to Jordan after they experience the American occupation in their homeland. With each character taking turns to tell their story, the audience is is taken through a journey to which we try to comprehend what we are hearing.
It's one thing to hear media reports on the progress of the war in Iraq, which began in 2003 but to then hear the actual stories of real individuals, is another thing. Playwrights Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, traveled to Jordan and interviewed over 30 individuals. These interviews all seemed to have a similar story. They all love their country and are proud to be an Iraqi but with the tragedies that surrounded them, in one way or another, they were forced to leave, and in some cases flee, to take refuge outside Iraq.
A dermatologist, an imam, a pharmacist, a painter, a theatre director, a mother and her newborn, and a wife and husband tell their individual stories about how the American occupation changed their lives. With the translator, Shahid, some of these stories are so heartbreaking and seemingly unreal, it's hard not to want to tune out and look away. But you can't. With minimal staging and the set only occupied by six chairs and several benches, these actors are speaking directly to the audience. We are the ones they want to hear their stories.
With the outstanding actors speaking directly to us, it was no wonder that at several moments throughout the play, not a sound could be heard from the audience. Every word spoken throughout this play was taken in by the ears of the audience who leaned forward in their seats as if that could help try to comprehend these traumatic stories.
Towards the end, Fadilah, the painter and wife of the theatre director says, "Truth is always threatened." What New York Theatre Workshop and the playwrights presented with Aftermath, is a tale unwarrantably true. At the post performance discussion, a public program presented by NYTW, patrons stayed to discuss their feelings on what they just saw. Several wanted to know how they can do more to help the refugees. Moderator Mark Crispin Miller, suggested donating to the IRC and getting as many people as possible to see this play. To be aware, word of mouth. I once again, was one of the youngest people in the audience and I hope my generation isn't lost to this. Awareness of the global community is poignant when striving for what is best for each other. So with this, I urge anyone reading this, you, you and you, to head down to New York Theatre Workshop, to see this play. If you're a student and price is a factor, be aware that for $20 you can get a ticket. Aftermath plays until October 18th.
For more information go to NYTW's website at http://www.nytw.org To read another review go to http://theater2.nytimes.com/2009/09/16/theater/reviews/16after.html?scp=2&sq=aftermath&st=cse
I was able to see Part 2 of Hartford Stage's World Premiere Theatrical Event The Orphan's Home Cycle last week with my friend Jared Weber. After the development of Horace's life in Part 1, I was more than ready to see Horace Robedaux, the central character who we see grow from a young boy into an adult, have something go his way. Part 2, The Story of a Marriage, shows Horace forming an attachment with a widowed mother of two but as Horace's luck would have it, his love is not reciprocated.
Then he meets Elizabeth. And finally, something goes his way. Sort of. Her father disapproves of the match but the young couple move out on their own. The struggle for Horace is not only to find approval from Elizabeth's dad but to be able to show support for his young bride and their child-to-be. Act 3 brings a pivotal scene in which Horace tells Elizabeth how he has always felt like an orphan his whole life and finally, with her, he finally feels a part of a family. Bill Heck, portrays Horace with an urgency to portray this brokenhearted character but with an ease that is so overwhelming, you can't help but only hope for the best.
What I love most about this production, beside the story and acting, is the music that walks hand in hand with the play. Each act opens with the glorious original music by John Gromada, that creates a real environment, as if we stepped right off the train into the heart of these characters.
Here's an excerpt I found online of a music session from the play. Enjoy.
I look forward to see the last Part of this event. Oh Horace, I only wish you the best.