Firehouse’s ‘American Idiot’ offers a genuine punk rock theatre experience
“I declare I don’t care no more.”
This lyric, although not from the album that spawned the stage production currently holding down Firehouse Theatre’s Friday nights, was a very relevant sentiment expressed therein. And sure, Green Day’s attitude could be summed in this proclamation across perhaps their entire existence as a band. But it is with a graduated mentality and need for speaking-out about the (then) current state of the union that this message finds an actual stage.
A Firehouse representative gave opening remarks about the ways actors specific to this play, as well as the new modus operandi of the Firehouse at large, were really trying to push this and other productions forward into new and exciting areas. The most obvious, and in my opinion the coolest, way this was accomplished was the integration of the musical roles with those of the actors in this production.
Not only was almost every cast member playing an instrument, but most of them swapped out to play at least two! I feel this earned a real home run in terms of the DIY ethos sought by American Idiot and is very much a part of the punk way of life.
Another point of progression from the more tame traditions of the stage was perhaps the inclusion of actual 9/11 footage. While the program warned of this ahead of time, the implied heroin use and abuse, and even the way the leading male and female strip down to near nudity and climb into bed was all high impact and well executed to invoke emotion from the audience.
And as a front row audience member, I certainly found their physical communion as hot and heavy as they probably wished their portrayals to be.
“Sex, drugs and rock and roll,” as the speaker said, they’re really trying to excite and entice a younger audience.
The cast worked very well together and each reflected what felt like a certain facet of the overall degradation of the characters more central to the message. That’s to say, there could’ve just as easily been three alternate tales of the same troubled stepson, but presenting them simultaneously allows for a greater story arc that still rams home the same point.
Denver Crawford was our leading man and main voice. He played Johnny and was just perfect in demeanor and execution. Obviously his heavy black eyeliner quickly recalled the Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong some of us know and love, but his overall enthusiasm for apathy which slides into drug abuse and emotional neglect is quite wrenching. Anna Rose, credited as “Whatshername,” is the guiding light of Johnny’s world until he refuses to even open his eyes and the wake of feelings left in her absence in his life was rough. Like I said…front row.
Worthy of mention also is the casting of Starlet Knight; clearly senior to everyone else but still capable of the passion and zeal that her companions all brought in spades.
And it is this point that I found most rewarding as a pre-American Idiot fan of Green Day.
That these California gentlemen have/had risen from the creators of incidental punk music to a band capable of an expressive reaction to the post-9/11 America and all of its fractured paranoia. The distrust of the state and general lack of patriotism certainly have ample footing at the time of this review, as they did then. I’d also add that having now heard the “concept” album in its entirety onstage now begs me to revisit a chapter of my past that I’d long thrown to the wayside.
Maybe I’m growing up. Or just burning out.
American Idiot runs now through August 13th at Firehouse Theatre. You can pick up tickets here.
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