As for the mind and heart, well, it’s probably best to check them at the door.
Based on Green Day’s enormously successful 2004 album American Idiot, the 2010 Broadway production won two Tony Awards. The touring cast in Morristown featured many energetic actors fresh out of college; NYU grad Jared Nepute was more than capable in the starring role of Johnny.
The story, such as it is, follows Johnny and pals Tunny (Dan Tracy) and Will (Casey O’Farrell), a shiftless trio chafing to escape post-9/11 suburbia.
Johnny seeks adventure in the big city and finds love, heroin and heartbreak. Tunny goes to war and comes back an amputee. Will is left behind on his couch after impregnating his girlfriend Heather (Mariah MacFarlane)…who dumps him for a rock star. Johnny’s alter-ego, St. Jimmy (Carson Higgins), roars in and out of the picture.
Somehow everything sorts itself out. More on that in a minute.
The score is loaded with catchy rock numbers and gentle ballads penned by Green Day front man Billie Joe Armstrong: American Idiot, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Know Your Enemy, Wake Me When September Ends and Good Riddance (Time of Your Life), to name a few. They are delivered by a band (Evan Jay Newman, David Abrams, Diego Rojas, Josh Sebo and Ben Marino) that does Green Day proud.
And the set is ingenious. A backdrop of video screens stands in for set changes, with dazzling images, phrases and colors. As hospital beds wheel around the stage, intravenous bags descend from the rafters. Sights and sounds swirl nonstop for 90 minutes.
Roll with them, and you’re fine.
You won’t notice that the hair-thin plot feels grafted onto a bunch of cool songs. Or that there is virtually no dialogue between songs to explain what’s going on when you can’t hear the lyrics. Or that you’re not given much reason to care about these characters.
Think of American Idiot as a sequence of live music videos, choreographed beautifully with a tuneful chorus, and you will enjoy the time of your life.