“American Idiot: The Musical” is a lightning bolt of intensity. McLean Community Players’ (MCP) production is a well-staged mounting of the rock opera based Green Day’s 2004 multi-platinum album (with additional songs from a 2009 concept album). It is full of passionate performances coupled with an electric, eight-member orchestra on the Alden Theater stage.
The show opened on Broadway in 2010, winning two Tony Awards. It was also nominated for Best Musical and the cast recording garnered the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.
…a lightning bolt of intensity…well-staged…full of passionate performances coupled with an electric, eight-member orchestra…Go see this show…
Director Kendrick Weingast has assembled a tremendous cast for MCP’s latest production. Their chemistry on stage creates the feeling of joy amidst an angst-ridden show. It is an unexpectedly wonderful feeling to walk out of the theatre—as the cast serenades you with Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”—after a performance with themes that include addiction and trauma.
This is a coming-of-age musical set in the early aughts—think George W. Bush, Abu Ghraib, and the Iraq War. Johnny (Cristian Bustillos), Tunny (Alex Readmond), and Will (Ryan Walker) are trying to move forward with their lives. Yet all three realize it is hard sometimes to be an adult. By show’s end, one enlists in the military; another falls prey to significant drug use; and the third has the challenges of an unexpected pregnancy which causes him to stagnate.
The music is fast-paced punk rock. “American Idiot” is a jukebox musical yet the 33 songs squeezed into 95 minutes do not have the airiness of “Jersey Boys,” “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” or “Mamma Mia!” They are performed by a diverse and talented cast with titles like “Give Me Novocaine” and “Jesus of Suburbia,” reflecting the frustrations of this era. Weingast weaves this all together aided by Gabriela Rojtman’s choreography, accomplished musicians on stage, and the pulsating lighting from Reed Simiele which is fit for a rock concert and helps with the transition between scenes. In particular, violinist Rebekah Givens, violist Tasha Pulvermacher, and cellist Pam Clem add a touching sweetness to this musical with the contrasting sounds of their string instruments. Rojtman ably maneuvers the 19 actors on stage, whether it is by moving them around on wheeled ladders or the fast-paced dancing throughout the show. The actors are in constant motion.
It is perhaps those few moments, when the cast is not moving, that are the most touching. Bustillos is a strong and believable lead as Johnny, yet his voice and the environment overall radiate in a softer song like “When September Ends” as opposed to the brashness of “Holiday.” As the pregnant Heather, Maggie Watts brings different and strong vocal chops to her moving role. Yet, underlying this story are the demons we all have, and Mike Holland brings that out with his take on the drug dealer St. Jimmy.
The D.C. region is blessed to have an abundance of theater options and MCP’s “American Idiot” shows you why. Go see this show, and don’t worry if you are not a Green Day fan. A senior citizen in front of me was giving a standing ovation as the curtain closed—and perhaps you will, too.
Running Time: One hour and 35 minutes with no intermission.
Advisory: Recommended for ages 13+ and up. Songs include explicit language and mentions of drug abuse and suicide. There are flashing lights and gunshots.
“American Idiot: The Musical” runs on the weekends through July 30, 2023 by The McLean Community Players at the Alden Theater. For more information and tickets, go online.