REVIEW: Green Day's 'American Idiot' a fresh take on musical angst

Green Day’s “American Idiot” came roaring to life Wednesday night as the touring musical of the same name completed its two-day stint in Eisenhower Auditorium.

The show opened with a wall of TV screens playing clips from news shows and introducing a cast of suburban teens itching to escape from their mundane surroundings. The 90-minute performance was mostly music, with brief interludes by main character Jonny (Van Hughes) narrating his exploits on the journey from suburbia to the city in letters home to his parents.

Paralleling Johnny’s story are Tunny’s (Scott J. Campbell) stint in the military, which ended with him losing his leg, and Will’s (Jake Epstein) struggle to stay at home with his girlfriend and young son while his friends are out exploring the world. Along the way, St. Jimmy (Joshua Kobak) tempts Jonny with drugs and other vices that ultimately send him into a downward spiral that matches Tunny and Will’s plights.

The songs themselves stuck very closely to the original arrangements on Green Day’s “American Idiot” and “21st Century Breakdown” albums, complete with a live band on stage backing the cast. The band was great at keeping the momentum going but did make it a bit difficult to hear the cast singing at times.

As a Green Day fan, it was great to discover a new side to the songs I’ve known for years. However, if you weren’t familiar with the band’s music beforehand, I imagine it would have been difficult to piece together the storyline based solely on the sparse narration and dialogue between songs.

That point aside, the musical rocked from start to finish and the cast was strong throughout. Johnny and love interest Whatshername (Gabrielle McClinton) had great chemistry and both delivered great vocal performances. The ensemble, including Penn State alumnus Dan Gleason, was lively and energetic.

Jonny, Tunny and Will ultimately return home to suburbia and are happily reunited after being apart for almost a year. The evening closed with the entire cast coming on stage with guitars to play “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life),” Green Day’s hit from its 1997 album “Nimrod.” This was a great cap to the performance and reiterated the fact that it’s OK for musicals to let their hair down and rock out every once in a while.

Jenna Spinelle can be reached at cdtweekender@centredaily.com.