If there's one word that does not describe Miller Auditorium's production ofAmerican Idiot, it's 'low-key.' Since its debut in 2009, the punk-rock stage musical has delighted and offended audiences alike with its rebellious music, outrageous lyrics and defiant spirit.
Featuring songs from Green Day's Grammy Award-winning concept album American Idiot, the musical pieces together and expands upon this album's implied storyline. Essentially, the plot centers around three protestors of the status quo who resolve to leave their meaningless suburban lives behind. As in the album,Green Day songwriter Billy Joe Armstrong's scathing social critiques and blatant Bush-bashing represent an audacious stand for honesty and freedom of expression.
Green Day's American Idiot
"This is Billy Joe Armstrong spilling out his feelings on the political world," said Jenna Rubaii, who plays Extraordinary Girl. "The show is totally uncensored. We do have a lot of people walk out, but that is the point here—fighting for what's right and for what you believe is what the show is all about ... It's a very in-your-face show."
With its adaptation to a stage musical, the boiling anger and frustration of the original album take on a new dynamic and heightened expression through explosive choreography.
"There's a lot of head banging and a lot of throwing yourself because there's a lot of anger,"Rubaii said. "When choreography comes from [Steven Hoggett], it's an emotion—it's what your body has to get out. The dancing just doesn't go with the tempo just to look cool, although it does."
While the choreography is heavy on slam dancing and erratic movements, more subtle motions in softer songs such as "Wake Me Up When September Ends" create emotional intensity as well.
"I've never have seen a choreographer put so much feeling to movement in such a simple way. The movements are so specific and small and tangible... They are so simple but so beautiful going to the soft songs,"Rubaii said.
Like the choreography, American Idiot's Tony Award-winning stage design amps up the burning passion of the
music and storyline as well. Most notable are the 32television screens built into the set that assaultaudiences with politically charged footage and emotional images. These images not only symbolizethe internal states of the characters, but also introduce additional narratives that contribute to the overwhelming dazzle of the show.
"It's really a spectacle. While the storyline happens, the TVs tell a whole separate story. It's visually an eye feast filled with things to look at,"Rubaii said.
With American Idiot, audiences connect with Green Day's songs in new ways, whether this includes witnessing the embodiment of the concept album'scharactersor storming out of the theater.
"Green Day fans are so excited to see the music put in the story they've always imagined it having,"Rubaii said. "Be ready to rock out when you see it. We love when an audience gets into it. Join with us, or be offended or whatever, but it's an amazing show."
OTHER PERFORMING ARTS EVENTS
The Acting Company: Of Mice and Men
Wharton Center, East Lansing
March 22-23, 8 p.m.
whartoncenter.com, (517) 353-1982
The heart-wrenching relationship between two down-and-out migrant workers takes center stage in the celebrated masterpiece, Of Mice and Men. As gruff softie George and his simple friend Lenniepursue a farm of their own, harsh realities turn their hopes into delusions. This gritty, emotional story is brought to life by America's premier touring repertory theater, which boasts distinguished alumni such as Patti LuPone, Kevin Kline and Rainn Wilson.
Fiddler on the Roof
Grand Rapids Civic Theatre
March 1-24; show times at 2 and 7:30 p.m.
grct.org, (616) 222-6650
Charming the stage for nearly five decades, Fiddler on the Roof has earned a special place in the hearts of many Broadway fans. This classic explores loyalty and letting go through the eyes of a religious Jew whose daughters defy convention. Unforgettable songs like "Tradition,""If I Were a Rich Man" and "Sunrise Sunset" make this vintage tale all the more irresistible.
The Matrix Live
Grand Rapids Symphony
March 19, 7:30 p.m.
$32 & up
grsymphony.org, (616) 454-9451
The Grand Rapids Symphony amps up the kick-butt action of The Matrixwith a gigantic high-def screen and explosive live accompaniment.Fast-paced songs such as "Dragula (Hot Rod Herman Remix),""Du Hast" and "Spybreak!" takeslowmo gunfights and black leather roundhouse kicks to a new level of intensity.