An assault on the senses.
That's my best summary for American Idiot, based on songs and book written by rock band Green Day.
A stage-to-rafters media wall is the backdrop, constantly moving with images on televisions built within it and additional graphics projected onto it. If that wasn't enough, strobe lights are used at some points. Given its dominating size, it's hard to ignore. Besides, the images and graphics give context to the story and what's happening with the actors as they perform, so you have a reason to pay attention.
Musically, it's loud and the cast blasts out the songs at full throttle.
The show was nominated for Best Musical at the 2010 Tony Awards. It won Tony's for Best Scenic Design for a Musical, and Best Lighting Design for a Musical. The cast has no stars that I knew but I was familiar with the many Green Day songs that are featured.
Here's a clip from the Tony Awards show as the cast sings the show's opening number. They are introduced by Green Day's front man Billie Joe Armstrong.
Billed as a "rock opera," American Idiot reminds me of Rent where there is no dialog — everything is sung. Also like Rent, I had a hard time following the story because the words could be difficult to understand. Add in the acting/dancing and visuals, and there's too much to comprehend. I didn't fully appreciate Rent until I saw it the second time. Perhaps that would be the same for this show, too.
The story follows three friends whose lives lead them on very divergent journeys. One becomes a father, the next a heroin addict, and the last a soldier. There's lots of symbolism going on; this isn't a story that is spoon fed to the audience.
I recommend the show if you are an enthusiastic fan of Green Day, Rent, or high-energy rock performances. Weekend ticket prices range from $49.00 to $122.00. This is currently a popular new show so availability at TKTS isn't a guarantee. I suspect that discounts are minimal even if tickets are available. If you're visiting from out of town, pay the extra and guarantee your attendance. The show ran about 1 hour and 45 minutes with no intermission.
American Idiot is now playing at the St. James Theatre on 44th between 7th and 8th Avenues. The theater seems small even though it has a capacity of over 1,700. For this performance, I don't think there is a bad seat in the house. We had a wonderful view from the third row in the mezzanine. I saw Barnum here way back in 1980 on a school trip!
The famous John's Pizza restaurant, fashioned in an old church, is right next door. Really good food, well priced, and the location was great being 20 steps from the theater's front doors. I had the Italiano panini sandwich (chicken breast, tomato, mozzarella, pesto) that came with a baby greens salad dressed in vinaigrette for $10. Six of us ate a combination of (two) pizzas and entrees with a split of Chianti for $100 including tip. Our waitress was efficient and personable. I'm always impressed when someone can take meal orders for a group of people, never write any of it down, and have it all arrive correctly.