American Idiot opened at the fairly new Cupcake Studios on Magnolia Boulevard on Friday night.
I should say it just didn’t open; it blasted on stage in full force with a wonderful cast, a full audience and great music from Green Day’s original rock-punk album. This show’s interpretation of the original Broadway production is exactly what it should be; a real winner. Let’s hope it stays around long enough for everyone to see.
The band Green Day was formed in 1987 and spent many years touring in rock and punk clubs. Its frontman Billy Joe Armstrong is the one who originally wrote the play's lyrics with the band’s music. This show came from its seventh album aptly called American Idiot. It was released in 2004 and by 2005 success at the Grammy’s was winning the best rock album of 2005. This turned into the Broadway musical success of the same name. Cupcake Studios took a chance in putting together this rock-punk opera that could have missed the message and markterribly, but it didn’t. It is a big production with many cast members, multiple storylines and very creative dance moves. Micheal Pettenato, the producer and founder of Cupcake Studios definitely knew what he was doing when he made the decision to bring this show to the NoHo Arts District.
This story follows three friends; Jonnie, an anti-hero filled with anger and needs unfulfilled; Will, who feels trapped with a pregnant girlfriend; and Tunny who signs up for military duty. Realizing if they don’t make a change soon, these three will stay in their small towns forever. Without any specific goals, they decide to leave and seek acceptance from others and escape the terrible world around them. Mixing a double dose of teenage angst with naive dreams often ends far from happiness. Can you really go home again? Not so sure. This production follows the original play’s theme which highlights the disillusionment of a specific generation growing up in the time of the American-Iraq war. However, here it goes a step farther. It not only builds upon that anger and loss, but this production includes the uncertainty of present day politics. Often it is hard to believe in anything substantial or real when leaders of the free world change the language to benefit themselves. On this point, more than one American generation can sympathize.
The music says it all. Boulevard of Broken Dreams and the opening song, American Idiot, are some of my favorites.
Performed by the theatres resident band, all the music is great, including all three lead actors, the ensembles of voices have energy and bring real honesty to the lyrics. Armstrong’s haunting tribute to his dying father, Wake Me in September, was sung by the lead Chris Marcos (Jonnie) perfectly. Will’s girlfriend Heather (Rachel Osting) also has a sweet and memorable voice.
This show has a lot going on as you try to capture the entire stage filled with constant movement. We are witness to gyrating moves, singing, dancing, climbing and running. It is a production in perpetual motion. The choreography is tight and the staging is almost exact to the original production. Taken from the album’s cover, the black walls are adorned with drawings of skulls, a red grenade heart held by a hand, and something new, Donald Trump’s face. The graffiti boasts words to distress the audience such as: Nuke Me Baby. Colored spotlights showcase important scenes and heighten the energy in the room. Scaffolding gives the audience a sense of height and depth. It definitely works.
All the actors are great in their parts.
However, let’s give a special nod to one of the three lead performers, Chris Marcos who plays Jonnie. His fluidity with the character almost feels as if he has personal experience with Jonnie. It is a natural fit. His voice is strong and we could hear him clearly most of the time. One of the other interesting characters is St. Jimmy played by Andrew Diego. He is tough, streetwise and very sensual. Bursting upon the stage with such vitality and power it was difficult to focus on anyone else in the scene.
The original Broadway production was produced by Tom Hulce and Ira Pittelman. The music is by Green Day and the lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong.
This production is produced by Michael Pettenato and directed by Esra Weisz. Mecca Andrews is the choreographer and Tom Harrison is the musical director. Obviously, this musical has many moving parts. I am happy to say that it worked exceedingly well. My only comment is that often the music drowned out most of the individual songs. We couldn’t hear individuals' voices. Other than that, the production is well done and fabulous.
Cupcake Studios is a wonderful place to see a musical or any other type of theatre production.
It is comfortable, large for the NoHo theatre area, and has a wonderful cast and crew. I would encourage anyone who is a fan of Green Day or musical theatre, or just good theatre productions to run and see this one.
To purchase tickets contact www.cupcaketheater.com. Cupcake Studios is located at 11020 W. Magnolia Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91601.