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Review: "Green Day's American Idiot" at Palace Theatre

April 26, 2014 - Andy Gray
CLEVELAND – Despite a Tony Award nomination for Best Musical and wins for its scenic and lighting design, it’s not surprising that “Green Day’s American Idiot” only is getting a weekend-long run at the PlayhouseSquare instead of playing for two weeks as part of its Key Bank Broadway Series.

Some of the older season ticket holders likely would revolt at the loud, profane musical that, to its credit, doesn’t try smooth out the abrasive quality of the source material. Better to book it as a stand-alone attraction for those who want to see it rather than slip it into a subscription series where some of the subscribers are sure to hate it.

There are impressive theatrical elements here. Those Tony wins for scenic design and lighting are understandable given the spectacle on stage. The warehouse-style set is adorned with more than 25 television screens of different sizes that bombard the audience and the actors with images and news reports and commercials.

The cast is energetic and talented, particularly Jared Nepute as Johnny, who flees his boring life in suburbia for the big city, where he finds love and addiction.

“American Idiot” really plays better to Green Day fans than musical theater lovers. The story that ties together such familiar songs as “Holiday,” “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” “21 Guns” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” feels like warmed-over “Rent” with a side of “Hair” and a dash of “Tommy.”

There are some spectacular parts, like a dance by Nepute and Olivia Puckett on “Last Night on Earth” with the two lovers tied together (and ultimately torn apart) by the rubber tourniquet Johnny uses for his fix, and the way a two-story rolling metal cart/frame is an integral part of the choreography for “Holiday.”

But it’s all in service to a story that isn’t as loud emotionally as it is musically. The subplots involving Johnny’s friends, Will and Tunny, barely resonate, even with Tunny going off to war and getting wounded.

Those who go for the music probably won’t be disappointed.

“Green Day’s American Idiot” will be staged at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Palace Theatre, 1519 Euclid Ave. Tickets range from $35 to $70.


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