Sunday, October 11, 2009

AMERICAN IDIOT at Berkeley Rep

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!

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