American Idiot
National Tour

Alex Nee and Trent Saunders
In 2004, pop punk band Green Day released their "American Idiot" album. Described as a "rock opera" and incredibly popular, it was destined to be adapted for the stage. The score (music by Green Day, lyrics by band frontman Bille Joe Armstrong) is exciting, infectious and varied. We follow three young characters who set out to find some "meaning" in their lives, mostly because, it seems, they don't want to grow up. There's little resolution, and along the way, they do all the things parents hope their kids don't do. This makes for a frustrating story to watch, and it's difficult to feel a lot of compassion for the characters (that, however, may vary according to the age of the viewer). Details may expose more depth to the story, but the songs are played rock-loud and are frequently scream-sung, which prevents the lyrics from helping us discover any nuance.

The score, the performance and the staging are frenetic and passionate and ultimately provide an invigorating and enjoyable, if not illuminating, evening. The three young men are Johnny (Alex Nee), who leaves home (with mom's money) to find love (with "Whatsername," Alyssa DiPalma) and drugs; Will (Casey O'Farrell), who had hoped to escape the rut of of his life, but his girlfriend Heather (Kennedy Caughell) gets pregnant and Will finds himself in a new rut; and Tunny (Thomas Hettrick), who falls for the glamour of an Army television ad and goes off to war. All three actors are excellent. Trent Saunders is explosive as St. Jimmy, who represents Johnny's heroin habit.

The set by Christine Jones is a masterpiece of industrial/media musical sets, working at a level of near sensory overload with Darrel Maloney's Video & Production Design. Choreographer Steven Hoggett provides movement and real dance, much of which is harmonious or mechanical, and a good amount of which is like moshing (in an old fogey moment, I feared brain bruising as the dancers violently shook their heads up and down).

If the "American Idiot" album is a favorite of yours, this is a great opportunity to see and hear it performed with amazing high energy and conviction.

The American Idiot tour at Heinz Hall through February 24. For tickets and performance information, visit Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. For more information on the tour visit

Photo: John Daughtry

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-- Ann Miner

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