Saturday December 3rd 2016

“American Idiot”

Lately, there seems to be more plays, both musical and non, that show a different side to America and the “American Dream”. The music of Green Day has been  transformed into a very powerful story about three boyhood friends, each of them taking a different path in their lives ,after the craziness of  9-11. They are searching for meaning in their lives, so in a way, this is a “coming of age” story. One leaves for a musical adventure, one stays home to be with his girlfriend who is pregnant and the third goes into the military.

We follow each of their lives and watch the turn of events as time proceeds. Twenty-one songs plus make up this “punk/rock opera”. Many loud , but a few very soft ballads that cause one to think. Billie Joe Armstrong’s lyrics ( and book with Michael Mayer, who also directed the show) and Green Day’s music along with some high tech choreography (Steven Hoggett) make for a  visual treat on a stage that is mostly a black wall ( the Broadway version was white) filled with TV monitors, doors and windows, where projections help to move the story along. The projection design by Darrel Maloney is bright and fast paced and the lighting by Kevin Adams is astounding.

My generation is not up on the music of Green Day, but in discussing the show with my daughter, she immediately told me that this is “great music” with meaning! The younger members of the audience tonight knew the music and the words and in thinking about the over-all production, I do see that over time, like a fine wine, audiences may become almost “cult-like ” ( as they are with “Rent” and others of that ilk) I can see that many young people are confused as to who they are and what lies ahead. Will their future be bright? Will our economy turn around? In this story, each had a set back. Being young with a baby- going to a war that you don’t understand- trying to make it in a business that is difficult and filled  drugs and sex! What kind of chance did they have?

The show features songs like “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” “21 Guns”, “American Idiot”, “When it’s Time” ( a lovely love song),”We’re Coming Home Again” and during the curtain call, “Time of Your Life” where the entire cast plays the guitar. The voices are amazing as is the energy of this powerful cast of performers led by Van Hughes,Jake Epstein,Scott J. Campbell, Leslie  McDonel, Gabrielle McClinton,Joshua Kobak and Nicci Claspell and an ensemble that changes characters and costumes throughout the show: Talia Aaron,Krystina Alabado,Gabriel Antonacci,Larkin Bogan,Jennifer Bowles,Matt DeAngelis, Dan Gleason, Kelvin Moon Loh,Vince oddo and Okieriette Onaodowan- theatrical diversity at its best!

“American Idiot”, 90 minutes ( no intermission) of fast paced music and story-telling will continue at  The Oriental Theatre through February 19th with performances as follows:

Tuesday,Wednesday,Thursday,Friday and Sunday evenings at 7:30 p.m.,Saturday nights at 8 p.m.

Matinees are on Saturdays at 2 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. ( no evening performance on the 19th)

Tickets range from $27-$95 and this show can be seen and heard from anywhere in the theater. You can purchase tickets at any of the Broadway In Chicago box offices, by calling the Broadway In Chicago Ticketline at 800-775-2000 , at all Ticketmaster outlets and online at

The Oriental Theatre is located at 24 West Randolph ( between State Street and Dearborn) with plenty of public transportation available.

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