Conquering the mainstream, yet retaining credibility thanks to their underground punk scene beginnings in Berkeley, California, the concept musical was perhaps the logical step for the work of Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool. A Broadway hit in 2009, the musical has cult status and clearly attracts a younger – and more vocal – crowd.
Some heckles from the stalls punctuated the opening as the post-grunge action unfolded. A post-apocalyptic feel permeates the staging, with an industrial look peppered with screens blaring manipulative media messages. The three male lead character, Johnny, Tunny and Will (played by Alex Nee, Thomas Hettrick and Casey O'Farrell respectively) start as Beavis and Butthead type stoners but each experience their own version of the American dream, or nightmare.
A six-piece band bring the songs alive, especially title track American Idiot and Wake Me Up When September Ends, but more poignant moments are heightened by more artistic interpretation in the musical direction, including cracking cello playing and even some bongo beats. Vocals from Aurie Ceylon and Jared Young are highlights among a talented ensemble while an acoustic guitar version of one of the band's best-loved tunes, Good Riddance (Time of Your Life), is a fitting finale. However, it is the choreography, by Frantic Assembly's Steven Hoggett, that is the show's stand-out ingredient. Boldly brutal then beguilingly beautiful, it brings a whole different theatrical dimension to the show.
At Edinburgh Playhouse to Saturday, then at the Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow, next week .October 29 to November 3).