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Green Day's musical finally gets a low key West End run… but they shouldn't have bothered
Watching clips of George Bush and his War On Terror give way to the opening power chords of Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’ makes 2004 feel an awfully long time ago. That was the year the US handed Dubya a second term – inexplicable to most of the rest of the world – and the Berkley pop-punks make an only slightly more creditable comeback with a rock opera of adolescent suburban inertia. Brought to Broadway as an all air-guitaring musical in 2010, it now returns to the Arts Theatre following a hit run in 2015, in a snare-drum tight production from Sell A Door and director/choreographer Racky Plews.
Rattling chronologically through the titular album, geed up with a few B-Sides and floor-fillers, it’s a superficially gritty but conceptually conventional story of three friends battling their way to adulthood and responsibility through a haze of narcotic and military misery. Billie-Joe Armstrong’s lyrics are bland and sentimental, and his songs fall into the two familiar pop-punk categories of angry anthems and acoustic navel-gazing, but there’s energy and empathy in his writing that’s frequently irresistible.
Plews has done a stunning job, blasting through the story at ear-splitting volumes and in a single act. Her choreography is electric, and her cast, led by the superb Newton Faulkner as Johnny the ‘Jesus of Suburbia’, attack every number with raucous muscularity. It’s hard to imagine ‘American Idiot’ receiving a better, bolshier treatment, but only you and your misspent youth can decide if that’s enough.