Is it possible to adapt an eight-year-old pop/punk album to a stage production that is fresh and relevant. If the production is American Idiot, the answer is “yes, mostly.” Based on the Green Day album of the same name, American Idiot follows the story of three disaffected teenage boys from the suburbs who struggle with the perils of coming of age in a post-Bush America. The story is told in broad strokes with little spoken dialogue, so those looking for character development will be disappointed. Instead, American Idiot relies on the album’s songs to create narrative mood-pieces; it’s rock opera in its most deconstructed form. This might sound abstract and pretentious, but this technique actuallyworks thanks to the writers’ ability to juxtapose the songs with scenes that convey genuine emotion. “Extraordinary Girl” becomes the soundtrack for a wounded soldier’s fevered dream, complete with an impressive bit of aerial choreography. “Letterbomb” becomes a vicious break-up song dripping with venom and regret. And “Wake Me Up When September Ends” becomes a rousing chorus of damaged people hoping for better days to come.
All of the cast deliver great performances as does the accompanying rock orchestra. There’s still something a bit too 2004-ish about American Idiot; its observations about youthful discontent in a media-saturated America are now yesterday’s news. But the trip back in time has a terrific score.