In the film “The Wild One” starring Marlon Brando as Johnny is asked ” . . . what are you rebelling against?” He replies, “Whadda you got?” Rebellion, rage, and sex, are front and center in punk music. You have to look for it, but love is hiding in there somewhere, too.
Punk began in the 1970s. I’m quite fond of Ian Dury and the Blockheads and of course, The Sex Pistols. A little on the outskirts of punk was Billy Joel. In the late 80s along came Green Day. One of the beautiful things about punk is not only anger, but is the turn of phrase. The juxtapositiong of words and attitudes. In “American Idiot” at Lakewood Playhouse, you get all of those elements. The music rocks around inside your head with the lyrics steering the course.
“So take the photographs, and still-frames in your mind
Hang them on a shelf in good health and good time”
– Good Riddance by Green Day
American Idiot is an award winning Broadway musical, labeled as a rock opera, it features the music of Green Day and lead Billie Joe Armstrong from the hit album American Idiot.
“The album was labeled as a punk rock opera which follows the journey of the fictitious “Jesus of Suburbia”. The album depicts modern American life under the control of an idiot ruler who let people be misinformed by the media and a “redneck agenda”. It gives different angles on an everyman, modern icons, and leaders. Released two months before U.S. President George W. Bush was reelected, the album became protest art.” – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Day
If that isn’t enough to send you running in the opposite direction, then read on. I loved this show. You need to see this production, but I wish you good luck. We attended the Saturday performance on January 6th. The musical was delayed a few minutes as management wedged in late comers and later buyers. It was sold out. Perhaps, even over-sold. I was a board member at the Tacoma Actors Guild where we constantly addressed the problem of attracting younger audiences. I was overwhelmed, most of the seats on Saturday were filled by younger people. Live performances and live theater tomorrow depends upon young viewers today.
I often wish that theatre programs were available online for downloading prior to a performance. I love seeing actors that have already made an impression on me. Also, even if the name and face aren’t familiar, the theatres where actors have performed tell me a lot about the quality of the production I am going to see. For example, my wife Peg and I have been regular attenders at Center Stage Theatre in Federal Way (Northeast Tacoma). Retired artistic director Alan Bryce wrote and directed Cardinal Sins last season. The music was fantastic as was the singing and acting. Shannon Burch, who played St. Jimmy in American Idiot was part of that production. It was nice seeing her in Lakewood. She was excellent!
Last season’s, Pirates of Penzance was a delight. I noted two performers returning from that show. Karly Dammel is a product of Lakewood Institute of Theatre (an excellent reason to donate and support Lakewood Playhouse). Her slight form worked as a young pirate last year. I was glad to see her dancing and moving everywhere in American Idiot. Another pirate was Tony Williams. As a supporting pirate I recognized his ability. In Idiot he excelled. He has a nice voice and a sturdy exterior that almost masks his ability to be sensitive. In this show he is a warrior . . . and we care for him.
Another alum from Center Stage is Ashley Roy. She was also involved in Tacoma Musical Playhouse’s “A Year with Frog and Toad,” one of our favorite musicals. For this show she plays a nurse who cares for the wounded warrior. There was no denying her ability as a dancer. She was also the show’s choregrapher.
Also outstanding were Kiana Norman Slack (really nice voice), Xander Laden, Orlando Shelly, Keoni Dilay, and Dominic Girolami (who was last seen by us at Tacoma Little Theatre). Cooper Harris-Turner performed my favorite piece “Give Me Novocaine.” I wish the character had been more involved throughout the production. The band was incredible, including my buddy Ed Taylor on guitar who is starring in “Strings and Alto at the Rialto” on January 19th. I don’t want to slight anyone. Everyone was wonderful.
The two characters that carried out the love interest, for some reason, just didn’t interest me. The fake rage of Johnny (Mark Alford), his bad decisions, and his love for Whatsername (Dani Hobbs) left me ambivilent. I don’t know if that is the intent of the author, or not, but really I don’t care. Nice job, though. They were the glue that held everything together as they moved the story along like Dorothy in Oz, or Alice in Wonderland. What held my interest most was the other people, their predicaments, songs, and storylines. When Johnny performed I was part of the throng and enjoyed their movement and enthusiasm. Music and lyrics drove everything.
Leading the charge was Director John Munn. John is also the Managing Artistic Director of Lakewood Playhouse. He dedicated this production to Jack, his oldest son . . . and a huge fan of Green Day. I can’t say enough about John. I heard him talking to an older couple as we were leaving, “It’s a generational thing.” I laughed. John has many things planned for next season, the 80th year of operation. He has started the ball rolling for donations to purchase more wireless mics. This production was the first at Lakewood Playhouse to have every actor wearing a mic. Thank you, John. Thank you, thank you, thank you.