Showing posts with label Green Day's American Idiot. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Green Day's American Idiot. Show all posts

Monday, June 12, 2017

Finally, Some American Idiots with Something to Say (or Sing)

By Guest Blogger, Dan Sanchez
Dan holds a BA in Theatre Production from the University of Delaware and has studied theatre around the world. Dan has worked extensively both onstage and behind the scenes across the Mid-Atlantic Region with theaters such as Three Little Bakers, The Candlelight Theatre, the Philadelphia Theatre Project, The Milburn Stone Theatre and Phoenix Festival Theater. 

“If you don’t like sex, drugs, rock-and-roll, and cursing, you’re in the wrong show,” said Wilmington Drama League's Stage/Production Manager, Kathy Buterbaugh during her Saturday, June 10, curtain speech. “This is a 90-minute show without an intermission; so I hope you have three beers because once this thing starts, it just goes!”

And, boy, does it! Based on Green Day’s 2004 album American Idiot, Director Chris Turner brings the show to life on the Wilmington Drama League (WDL) stage with a cacophony of song and dance in a story of love, loss and redemption.

Originally conceived as a rock-opera by Green Day frontman Billy Joe Armstrong, the band had always intended for this music be performed on stage a la The Who’s Tommy, and used their 2004 album release as a sort of demo. Flash forward to September 2009: The show is running at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, California. It was then transferred to the St. James Theatre on Broadway where the musical officially opened on April 20, 2010. The show closed on April 24, 2011 after 422 performances.

The musical won two 2010 Tony Awards for Best Scenic Design of a Musical and Best Lighting Design of a Musical. It was also nominated for Best Musical that same year but lost out to Memphis. In 2011, the Broadway Cast Recording of American Idiot won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.

The basic storyline of American Idiot is flimsy but familiar: Three young suburbanite kids get bored/feel trapped with their mundane lives 
– as well as mommy and daddy’s rules  and decide to break free.

Subsequently, one (Will, played by William Bryant) stays home after finding out his girlfriend, Heather, is expecting. Another (Tunny, played by Ben Long) joins the military and is shipped off to war. And, in a role originated by and named for Wilmington native Johnny Gallagher, Jr. (Original Cast of Spring Awakening. TV & Film: The Newsroom, 10 Cloverfield Lane) is Brandon Zebley as Johnny, who yearns to break free and live a less than humdrum life, ultimately turns to drugs.

Rounding out the cast of Wilmington Drama League production is an energetic bunch of local talent: Alexander Cook, Gina Dzielak, Kendra Eckbold, Marion Jackson (Heather), Daulton Mahley, Darby McLaughlin (Whatshername), Ty Pride (Extraordinary Girl), Felipe Rocha, Chrissy Stief and Shane Wilson.

Tony Delnegro’s interactive set features multiple levels, a plethora of flatscreen TVs, graffiti, and gives a sense of an urban everywhere and a dystopian nowhere, providing an ample playground for the shows many locales. Combined with smart lighting design by Aaron Cook and Brian Kavanaugh, this production also employs two projectors focused on the walls of the house to immerse the audience in a world of ever-changing imagery 
– by Banksy, a city skyline and more – to set the mood perfectly.

The choreography by WDL perennial Dominic Santos manipulates tribal-like movements and punk-rock head-banging to evoke the angst and feelings of disenfranchised young adults.

Standout performances among the talented cast come from the ladies opposite of our main character trio; Marion Jackson as the pregnant and disappointed Heather; Darby McLaughlin as the sultry vixen Whatshername; and Ty Pride as the Extraordinary Girl. Each of these young ladies have angelic voices that effortlessly soar through each song they belt.

The real highlight of this show, however, is the band who rocks out on this non-stop wave of music with the energy and vigor of an actual Green Day concert. But, of particular note, is Music Director/Band Leader, Caty Butler. This young talent takes the stage for the first time in American Idiot as the enticing smack dealer St. Jimmy, a role traditionally played by a man and one she only stepped into a week before opening. Butler outright owns this role and commands the stage with her vocal prowess. I look forward to watching her continue grow as a musician and wait with baited breath to see her onstage as an actor again.

Though I did over hear an older patron ask, “What the hell did I just watch?” after the show, I would say that’s a good indication that this ain’t your NaNa’s Broadway and highly recommend checking out the charismatic production of this high-concept rock-opera before it’s gone.

American Idiot at the Wilmington Drama League runs through June 18. Tickets are available via the Drama League website or via phone at 302.764.1172.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Green Day's American Idiot Rocks Wilmo's World at City Theater Company

By Guest Blogger, Ken Grant
Ken Grant has worked in Delaware media, politics and marketing for 25 years. He and his Lovely Bride enjoy Wilmington's arts and culture scene as much as they can.

Question: What do you do when you have the equivalent of 20 megatons of highly explosive talent in the form of more than a dozen actor/singer/dancers and a full band with string section to fit onto a stage that’s only big enough to handle a fraction of that talent?

The Cast of CTC's production, Green Day's American Idiot
If you’re Wilmington’s City Theater Company, then you break all of the traditions of staging, set the string section along the side wall, and allow the action to flow through the entire theater space.

In City Theater Company’s production of Green Day’s American Idiot, Director Michael Gray, Music Director Joe Trainor, and Choreographer Dawn Morningstar not only capture the sound and look of the iconic band, but the spirit of punk rock. Just as one does not passively listen to punk, one cannot passively sit and watch this performance. No matter where you sit in the theater, there is some point where you are in the front row of the action.

So, what is this musical about?  Sex, drugs, and rock & roll – check. Friendship, teen angst, disillusionment, self-loathing, war, apathy, longing for reconciliation – check, check and check.

L-R: Tunny (Jake Glassman), Johnny (Brendan Sheehan) & Will (George Murphy)
Through the course of 22 Green Day songs and a small amount of narrative, the audience watches three friends – Johnny (Brendan Sheehan), Tunny (Jake Glassman) and Will (George Murphy) – attempt to deal with their frustration with their suburban fives through resignation, escapism, and submission to patriotism, with the complications of relationships with women playing a significant part in their decisions and coping mechanisms.

And then there’s Johnny’s alter-ego – St. Jimmy, played hauntingly by Adam Wahlberg. St. Jimmy comes across as the embodiment
St. Jimmy (Adam Wahlberg)
of Jack Nicholson, Mick Jagger and James Dean cool with an edge of darkness and insecurity boiling just below the surface.

Leslie Kelly, Amanda Panrock and Grace Tarves play the muses, fantasies, and objects of affection for the trio of friends – and each of their voices communicate a strength that can be expressed best through either punk or opera.

While the music and choreography would be enough to keep any audience member’s attention, this production adds an extra level with video footage shot across the entire stage area thanks to Planet Ten.

There’s a message scrawled across the back of Johnny’s jacket in this production – “Punk’s Not Dead.” It’s safe to say that as long as City Theater Company is putting on this production, that message remains true.

Green Day’s American Idiot can be experienced through April 25 at The Black Box at OperaDelaware Studios on 4. South Poplar Street in Wilmington. Tickets can be purchased at