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American Idiot at New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham - Review

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by Andy Coleman (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in Birmingham. I like Classic Rock, 70s pop music, football and interviewing celebrities. Follow me on Twitter: @andycoleman9
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Musical inspired by Green Day's 2004 concept album
American Idiot, New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham, Amelia Lily, Newton Faulkner, Green Day, Review

According to the programme for Green Day's American Idiot the producers of the original show had to convince the band that the stage version of their hit album was not going to be just another evening of American razzmatazz.

''An album full of political rage and rock 'n' roll muscularity would have been rendered impotent if treated in the same way as a family-friendly singalong,'' says the programme notes.

After seeing the latest touring version in Birmingham it's easy to see why Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool, aka Green Day, were delighted to see what theatre director Michael Mayer had created.

The show is bleak in its depiction of three friends' decline into drugs, drink and desperation after 9/11. Even the set is grim graffiti is on the walls, the bathroom is dirty and disgusting, metal grids take the place of doors. Punk Rock rules and that's just what Green Day wanted to convey.

American Idiot

The songs on the original concept album are all in place but there is the addition of tracks from Green Day's 21st Century Breakdown album plus some B-sides. And this is where the production triumphs as the music is so darn good. Classic rock riffs, melodies that worm their way into your head and two or three really good punk pop ballads.

Billie Joe Armstrong's lyrics are cleverly poetic but unfortunately at the Alex many are hard to discern as the music is overpowering and some of the cast's voices are lost in the mix, especially in the first half.

American Idiot, New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham, Amelia Lily, Newton Faulkner, Green Day, Review
Newton Faulkner

Which brings me to the performers. Singer/ songwriter Newton Faulkner has just taken over as lead character Johnny but he has not yet found his punk rock voice. On the rock numbers he is overshadowed by the vocal talents of his two friends Tunny (Alexis Gerred) and Will (Steve Rushton - ex-Son of Dork). However, give him an acoustic guitar and a ballad and he shines Boulevard of Broken Dreams, When It's Time and Wake Me Up When September Ends all impress.

American Idiot, New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham, Amelia Lily, Newton Faulkner, Green Day, Review
Amelia Lily

Former X Factor finalist Amelia Lily is an American Idiot veteran and is more than comfortable in the role of Whatsername, the object of Johnny's desire.

American Idiot
Lucas Rush

Lucas Rush as Johnny's drug alter-ego, St Jimmy, is another American Idiot regular, gleefully guiding Johnny on the path towards destruction.

The rest of the young cast are full of energy and enthusiasm and I particularly liked the curtain call when they all played guitars and sang Good Riddance (Time of Your Life), a joyful number that seemed slightly out of place after the despair of the preceding hour and 40 minutes.

American Idiot 2016 UK tour:

Until May 14: New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham;
May 24 - 28: Sunderland Empire;
May 31 - June 4: King's Theatre, Glasgow;
June 21 - 25: Liverpool Empire.

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Why? Green Day's ambitious concept album brought the life on stage.
When: Until May 14, 2016 (Alexandra Theatre); touring until June 25, 2016
Phone: 0844 871 3011
Where: New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, then touring
Cost: From 17.90 plus booking fees
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