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American Idiot Review

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Submitted By dazzlegirl
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The Broadway show American Idiot takes its audience on a journey through the trials and tribulations of 3 young men growing up in America saturated in media and unsure of just who they truly are. The musical is an extravagant display of visual media, dazzling the viewers and leaving them wondering how to divide their attention among all the different things happening on stage. However, despite this strength, the show lacks character development as well as sufficient plot motivation. The plot of the show is easy enough to describe. Three boys, dissatisfied with their humdrum suburban existence decide to hit the road and find something out there more exciting than their hometown. However, Will (Michael Esper), one of the boys is sidetracked when his girlfriend Heather (Mary Faber) informs him that she is pregnant with his child. The other two boys, Johnny (the main character, played by John Gallagher, Jr.) and Tunny (Stark Sands) leave Will behind and head off to make their way in the world. Soon Tunny enlists in the army, and Johnny gets hooked on heroin, creating an alter ego named St. Jimmy (Tony Vincent). As the show goes on, Johnny falls for a woman named Whatshername (Rebecca Naomi Jones), but their relationship is destroyed by St. Jimmy, or his addiction. Tunny loses his leg in battle, but gains love in the form of a woman named The Extraordinary Girl (Christina Sajous). Heather gives birth, but ends up leaving Will due to his alcoholism and general apathy. Eventually, Johnny overcomes his addiction, and both he and Tunny return home and meet up with Will again. Johnny distresses over having lost Whatshername, but finds hope in the idea that he has learned from this experience and can continue on with his life and hopefully make better choices. When looking at the acting performances, the clear stand-out was Tony Vincent, playing St. Jimmy. He brought life and attitude to a character that in actuality never existed. Yet somehow he seemed to be the most real of them all. Playing a character embodying an addiction is no easy feat, but Vincent met the challenge head-on and knocked it out of the park. It was refreshing to see a completely existential character played in a stark, honest, and genuine manner as Vincent did. John Gallagher, Jr., as Johnny, was also quite strong, but something about his character was not as compelling. This could be a problem more on the part of the character than Gallagher, however. Rebecca Naomi Jones’ Whatshername was striking as well, but overshadowed by the grade A performance turned in by Vincent. As far as plot structure, American Idiot does not follow conventional standards. The plot is not built in the typical rising action, climax, falling action structure one usually finds. There is no real rising action; throughout the play dramatic event after dramatic event is thrown at the audience. The action is plateaued as opposed to peaked. In addition, there is no definitive climax in the story. Each individual character’s storyline, however, does have its own separate climax, but the plot in its entirety lacks one. The character development in the show was definitely lacking. The characters came across as flat and empty, due to the apparent stereotypes they were portraying. Throughout the show they never seemed to develop true personalities. I believe part of this to be due to the idea that if the characters were kept vague enough that most any audience member would be able to find some part of themselves within the characters actions, thus would be more able to relate to each character. However, the audience tends to fail to fulfill this hope, instead feeling little to no empathy/sympathy for the characters involved. One reason this could be occurring is that the audience members are hesitant to see themselves in characters that are making such horrible decisions and leading lives filled with tragedy. Regardless of the reasoning behind it, then characters in American Idiot frankly do not work for most audience members. The thought, or theme, behind American Idiot is in fact a multi-faceted and effective communication of the detrimental effects of American society, showing everyone that something must be done before it’s too late, possibly sending out a warning to other civilizations to try and stay away from an American-esque society. Some of the major themes brought across by the show include the idea of complete saturation in and take over by media, the inferiority of the individual, rage versus love, and the old adage “if you aren’t with us, you’re against us.” Diction did not play a huge role in American Idiot as almost every line is sung, leaving little to no dialogue involved. The show is therefore able to communicate its themes through its music and stage setting more than anything else. The music, all Green Day songs, brings to the table a rebellious and exciting atmosphere that is able to truly capture the feelings of rage, hopelessness, love, and oppression felt by the various characters. Without a doubt, the most impressive aspect of the show was the spectacle it was able to create. Each and every second of the performance there was something, if not multiple things, occurring on stage that was incredibly eye-catching and intriguing. From the initial opening of the curtain the audience is bombarded with visual elements. For example, the backdrop of the stage was covered in televisions and newspapers, creating an atmosphere that communicated the total immersion in media that plagued these characters. Each and every piece of the set was utilized in some way, most pieces in multiple ways, which made watching the show all the more dynamic. In addition the choreography, at least at the beginning, was incredibly effective. The jerky and over-exaggerated motions seemed reminiscent of concert performances but also carried across the emotions of the tortured young men and women being portrayed on stage. Granted, by the end of the show some of the choreography had gotten old; it would have been nice to have it switch up or evolve as the show went on. All in all, American Idiot was an entertaining and energetic performance. It was enjoyable, but lacked strength in the areas of diction and character. However, it was incredibly strong in its spectacle and thought, making the audience think about American society and the ill-effects it has on American citizens. Personally, the characters struggles to find themselves resonated loudly for me. I felt as though I could relate to some of the confusion the characters were feeling, even though I did not necessarily completely connect with any of the characters. Though it would benefit from being work-shopped and tweaked, the show brought a strong performance to the table that certainly had me thinking, and talking, for a while afterwards.…...

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