REVIEW: Green Day's American Idiot, Sunderland Empire, Until May 28
Between the hard drug use, sex scenes and loss of limbs, this isn't your typical musical.
Green Day’s Broadway smash American Idiot opened in a blaze of glory at the Sunderland Empire last night.
The show is on its first UK tour and I’m sure it’s shocking audiences wherever it goes.
Set in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks on America, it follows three friends as they search for meaning in their lives.
Johnny (Newton Faulkner), Tunny (Cellen Chugg Jones) and Will (Steve Rushton) plan to leave their small town for the big city but their plans are quickly scuppered when Will’s girlfriend reveals she’s pregnant and he decides to stay behind.
But the other two set off, and while Tunny finds his calling in the military, Johnny begins a life of drug abuse with the help of his mysterious new friend St Jimmy (Lucas Rush), but also finds love with Whatsername (Amelia Lily).
The show is set to the soundtrack of Green Day’s groundbreaking 2004 album American Idiot – with a few other tracks thrown in for good measure.
Being a massive Green Day fan, it took me a couple of songs to get used to the fact that it wasn’t frontman Billie Joe Armstrong singing, but once I’d settled into the idea, it was clear these songs were meant to be performed this way.
As with the album, the show has a strong political message, but it’s just as cheesy as it is controversial.
You kind of can’t help but cringe a little as cast members hold up their middle fingers and bang their heads, but it all fits into the overall attitude of the show.
Before seeing him in the role, I couldn’t imagine Faulkner as Johnny, but he did an astounding job. His raspy voice really suited big rock numbers like Jesus of Suburbia and Holiday, and he really shone during slower tracks like Wake Me Up When September Ends and Whatsername.
The way he stumbled around the stage in a heroin-induced state was so convincing that it was quite difficult to watch.
While he may have made some questionable decisions in his life, the audience is very much on Johnny’s side and it’s hard to see him like that.
Faulkner grasped the uneven psychological state of the character tremendously.
Rush was incredible as St Jimmy. The character is most definitely out there and Rush totally went with it, letting his wild side loose.
While it’s a relatively small part in comparison to the boys, North East lass Lily was fantastic as Whatsername. Her performance of Letterbomb was a hugely empowering moment.
Jones and Rushton each took on their parts brilliantly, and Jarrow girl Alice Stokoe rocked as Extraordinary Girl. Her character’s title track was her moment in the spotlight and she grabbed it with both hands.
The edgy set looked great and the on-stage band rocked as they provided the soundtrack to the show.
The show deals with a lot of controversial topics, like war, drug use and mental health and does it brilliantly, and if seeing Johnny struggle with his addictions isn’t enough to put you off Class-As then I don’t know what is.
It probably isn’t suitable for the younger ones as it’s laden with bad language and sexual scenes.
I saw American Idiot on the West End last year, but loved it even more the second time around.
Green Day fans will want to sing along to infectious tracks like Boulevard of Broken Dreams and Know Your Enemy.
The crowd were brought to their feet in a standing ovation and everyone joined in for an end-of-the-show singalong to Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).
It’s a show like no other out there and an absolute must for rock fans.
American Idiot runs until Saturday, May 28. Click here to book tickets.