Review: Green Day’s American Idiot (Sydney Opera House)

Venue: Sydney Opera House (Sydney NSW), Jan 11 – 14, 2018
Music: Green Day
Lyrics: Billie Joe Armstrong
Book: Billie Joe Armstrong, Michael Mayer
Director: Craig Ilot
Cast: Kaylah Attard, Kyla Bartholemeusz, Erin Clare, Connor Crawford, Linden Furnell, Phil Jamieson, Alex Jeans, Nicholas Kyriacou, Vidya Makan, Phoenix Mendoza, Phoebe Panaretos, Christopher Scalzo, Maxwell Simon, Ashleigh Taylor, Kuki Tipoki
Image by Ken Leanfore

Theatre review
Comprising songs by American punk rock band Green Day, American Idiot is a musical, or a rock opera to be slightly more precise, that showcases the band’s unquestionably popular songwriting talents. Billie Joe Armstrong, Tré Cool and Mike Dirnt are Gen X’ers who have found an audience with their brash but commercial sound, and like many successful music artists today, exploring a jukebox musical with their pre-existing catalogue is now par for the course.

While it is somewhat refreshing to have the punk genre incorporated into this almost always contrived genre of show, a stronger book is required for American Idiot to speak to those who are less than fanatic about the band’s oeuvre. We see characters go through the semblance of a plot, but glean no detail from any of their stories. Cheesy choreography and unimaginative use of projections, cause the show to further alienate.

The adaptation of music is however, fairly effective, with dramatic arrangements helping to sustain interest. It is a committed cast of varying abilities, most memorable of whom is Linden Furnell in the central role of Johnny, exquisitely confident in his multidisciplinary approach to the production’s quite exacting requirements. His effortless blend of rock and broadway, along with a physical agility, provide us with a sense of impressive polish and professionalism. Much less comfortable on the musical stage is Phil Jamieson, who although exhibits good presence from his years as a rock musician, is visibly disoriented in this switch in performance style.

It is certainly one for the fans, but there is no reason for the bar not being raised higher. There is excellent energy and poignant intent in each of the songs being sung in American Idiot, and when presented appropriately, there is plentiful opportunity for a wider crowd to connect. The talent here is evident, but greater diligence is necessary for a show that could speak to more, with better clarity and at a more affecting depth.