By Ken Grant
Question: What do you do when you have the equivalent of 20 megatons of highly explosive talent in the form of more than a dozen actor/singer/dancers and a full band with string section to fit onto a stage that’s only big enough to handle a fraction of that talent?
If you’re Wilmington’s City Theater Company, then you break all of the traditions of staging, set the string section along the side wall, and allow the action to flow through the entire theater space.
In City Theater Company’s production of GREEN DAY’S AMERICAN IDIOT, Director Michael Gray, Music Director Joe Trainor, and Choreographer Dawn Morningstar not only capture the sound and look of the iconic band, but the spirit of punk rock. Just as one does not passively listen to punk, one cannot passively sit and watch this performance. No matter where you sit in the theater, there is some point where you are in the front row of the action.
So, what is this musical about? Sex, drugs, and rock & roll – check. Friendship, teen angst, disillusionment, self-loathing, war, apathy, longing for reconciliation – check, check and check.
Through the course of 22 Green Day songs and a small amount of narrative, the audience watches three friends – Johnny (Brendan Sheehan), Tunny (Jake Glassman) and Will (George Murphy) – attempt to deal with their frustration with their suburban fives through resignation, escapism, and submission to patriotism, with the complications of relationships with women playing a significant part in their decisions and coping mechanisms.
And then there’s Johnny’s alter-ego – St. Jimmy, played hauntingly by Adam Wahlberg. St. Jimmy comes across as the embodiment of Jack Nicholson, Mick Jagger and James Dean cool with an edge of darkness and insecurity boiling just below the surface.
Leslie Kelly, Amanda Panrock, and Grace Tarves play the muses, fantasies, and objects of affection for the trio of friends – and each of their voices communicate a strength that can be expressed best through either punk or opera.
While the music and choreography would be enough to keep any audience member’s attention, this production adds an extra level with video footage shot across the entire stage area thanks to Planet Ten.
There’s a message scrawled across the back of Johnny’s jacket in this production – “Punk’s Not Dead.” It’s safe to say that as long as City Theater Company is putting on this production, that message remains true.
GREEN DAY’S AMERICAN IDIOT can be experienced through April 25 at The Black Box at OperaDelaware Studios on 4. South Poplar Street in Wilmington. Tickets can be purchased at city-theater.org.
City Theater Company
Review submitted by:
Kerry Kristine McElrone
Ken Grant has worked in Delaware media, politics and marketing for 25 years. He and his Lovely Bride enjoy Wilmington’s arts and culture scene as much as they can.