I don’t normally review musicals – well, I need some nights off – but I saw Oliver Rowe’s legendary youth production of Les Miserables so jumped at the chance of seeing his latest, the heart-breaking electro-rock spectacular about youthful disillusion, American Idiot. Am I glad I did.
Featuring songs from Green Day’s Grammy-award winning, multi-platinum album American Idiot plus extra numbers from their follow-up 21st Century Breakdown, this is a post 9/11 tale of three young friends from the mid-west going through all the changes and choices growing up involves while not always managing to dodge the disasters.
Heart-breaking and inspiring by turns, this is sit up and pay attention from the off featuring an ensemble straight from Celestial Central Casting. Here three young men, Johnny, Tunny and Will try to flee their stifling small town lives for the city on a journey of fulfilment everyone can identify with.
But this isn’t musical comedy, it’s real life stuff, and they’re quickly brought up against the hazards and responsibilities of what being grown up turns out to be. While Will has to stay home to attend to his responsibilities, Johnny gets addicted to the wrong crowd and Tunny barely survives entering the military. As a coming of age story this has it all.
The first half went by in an exuberant blur of solos, duos and huge ensemble set pieces. I’ll confess to being damp-eyed right from the start at the sight of all the superbly disciplined performances on display many “professional” productions would do well to take a peek at. Cleverly showcased, everyone here had a chance to shine from the spectacular spontaneity of the exquisitely drilled all-singing, all-dancing young chorus thanks to the amazing Jessica Lambert’s choreography through the minor characters to the superb aplomb of the leads.
Among the principals, Dominic Sterland gives a heartbreakingly poignant performance as Will, while Elliot Lolley scores a direct hit as Tunny, the jack-the-lad of all time. But even in this perfectly cast ensemble one name stands out, Chris Buckle in the complex role of Johnny. With this production Mr Buckle takes another step nearer his destiny as a true theatrical star.
Oh – and I nearly forgot – the superb onstage band are straight from Rock Heaven. Take a bow, fellas. This is real Broadway stuff from first to last. Bravo!
The show closes tomorrow – for tickets, visit www.lichfieldgarrick.com.