THEATER REVIEW: “American Idiot” at San Diego’s Civic Theatre

Let’s face it, there are shows old ladies with an artistic allergy to loud rock music and unintelligible lyrics shouldn’t review.

“American Idiot” – the Tony-nominated punk rock opera with a vestigial plot about three teenage dwellers in suburbia who must choose between the safety of staying home or the challenge of chasing their dreams in the Big City – just might be in that category.

The one-act Broadway hit blasted into San Diego’s Civic Theatre last night for shows through April 2. Michael Mayer (who co-wrote the book) directs.

This is a raucous head-basher of a show bursting with frenetic energy and noisy music up front, and featuring an onslaught of technical wizardry in the background (by Christine Jones) that produces serious sensory overload – 30 monitors with constantly changing images and blindingly bright lights, often blinking.

The show (based on the concept album of the same name) features music of rock band Green Day and lyrics by its lead singer, Billie Joe Armstrong, and stars an athletic cast of young singers and dancers headed by the trio of friends who must make the big decision.

Johnny (played on opening night by John Krause) is the protagonist; he’s angry and looking for love – a perfect combination for disappointment. This is is what he gets, along with an introduction to drug addiction, thanks to drug dealer St. Jimmy (Trent Saunders).

Tunny (Thomas Hettrick) joins Johnny on his venture into the city, but quickly becomes disillusioned and joins the army. He will lose a leg but gain a girlfriend and eventually return to suburbia.

Will (Casey O’Farrell) plans to go with the others, but stays when he finds out his girlfriend Heather (Kennedy Caughell) is pregnant. He will go into an alcohol and drug-fueled depression.

It’s an angry show with angular, muscular choreography (by Steven Hoggett) to match. For me, the uptempo songs (most of them) are too loud, the chord progressions too predictable, the lyrics too unintelligible to serve their purpose. There are a few nice ballads.

Clearly, I am not the intended audience for this show. Others who should avoid it are the autistic or epileptic. The decibel level and bright, blinking lights may have bad effects.

“American Idiot” is for fans of Green Day or punk rock in general. Many in the opening night audience loved it.

The details

Broadway San Diego’s “American Idiot” plays through June 2 at San Diego Civic Theatre, Third and B streets, downtown.

Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 1 and 6 pm.

For tickets, click HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.