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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 18, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 38
Green Day's American Idiot an exhilarating and exciting production
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Green Day's American Idiot an exhilarating and exciting production

by Paul Torres - SGN Contributing Writer

GREEN DAY'S
AMERICAN IDIOT
ARTSWEST
Through October 11


ArtsWest's production of Green Day's American Idiot is a high volume and high-energy punk rock opera that breaks rules as well as entertains. ArtsWest offer two ways to watch this performance: observational or immersive. The observational is the traditional way we view a musical as an audience by sitting and watching it happen before us. The immersive is being a part of a group and letting cast members guide you around the ArtsWest venue to experience what is going on in the lives of the main characters. What could be utter confusion and chaos is exhilarating and exciting, and it works. American Idiot is a powerhouse production.

Eric Ankrim (Grease at 5th Avenue Theatre) directs this production originally sourced from Green Day's Grammy Award winning concept album of the same name released in 2004. It serves as a tale of youth in the aftermath of the wary times in post 9/11 America. Music composers are Green Day with lead vocalist Billie Joe Armstrong as lyricist. He and Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening) wrote the book.

In the story, a trio of friends, Johnny, Will, and Tunny, is reckless and restless. They long for excitement and adventure. They escape to the big city and reveal themselves (musically) through their travails and commotion along the way. They find love, drugs, and discontent as they journey through their young and questioning lives.

The cast of 32 sing and dance with talent and charisma. The casting of the lead characters is excellent. Johnny, played by Frederick Hagreen (Jasper in Deadland), drives the story. In his ArtsWest debut, Hagreen gives a commanding performance in a cast that is full of beautiful young people. As the hapless Will, Michael Coale Grey (First Date), superbly projects the dismay of a life gone awry. As his girlfriend, Heather, Chelsea LeValley (Angry Housewives) is fabulous. Justin Huertas (Seattle Repertory's Lizard Boy) masterfully depicts the sweet and tragic-bound Tunny. As Johnny's love interest, Whatshername (yeah, that is what they call her), Kirsten DeLohr Helland is stunning as a drugged-out seductress that (at least fleetingly) wins his heart.

The most captivating performances go to Jimmie Herrod (The Ballad of Ishtar) and Trent Moury (Dogfight), respectively. As Extraordinary Girl, Herrod absolutely shines (in a female role) as the nurse who Tunny falls in love with after his military enlistment. His impressive vocals soar and depict Tunny's pain and hope. Moury, who I enjoyed in ArtsWest's Angry Housewives, takes punk brat to a new and alluring level. His searing and sexy portrayal of wild drug-dealer St. Jimmy leaves a long-lasting impression.

The rock music is vital in this production. Co-musical directors R.J. Tancioco (Jasper in Deadland) and Chris Ranney (No Way to Treat a Lady) are rock virtuosos. The talented band jams through raucous renditions of Green Day masterpieces: 'American Idiot,' 'Boulevard of Broken Dreams,' 'Wake Me Up When September Ends,' 'Know Your Enemy,' and culminates with the acoustic guitar-laden curtain call of 'Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).' All the tunes perfectly depict the story of the youth's frustrations and hopes.

Ankrim's staging is brisk and lucid. This production consumes the entire ArtsWest venue. It uses its basement, backstage, and balconies to express the enormity of American Idiot, but also the internal claustrophobia for a disaffected generation. The hidden sets for the immersive participants have perfect details. The ArtsWest basement reminds you of an actual house party in a basement with a trashcan and all-purpose dirty mattress on the floor.

American Idiot's examination of generational angst, with all its vivacious urgency and loudness, is not a new topic for the stage. We have seen it before in Hair and Rent. This inventive production of American Idiot dutifully honors this tradition with a soul-screaming vibrancy that pulsates through you long after you leave.

Performances of Green Day's American Idiot run Wednesday-Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m., with one Monday performance on September 21 at 7:30 p.m. ArtsWest is located at 4711 California Ave. SW. For more information and tickets contact ArtsWest at http://www.artswest.org/ and 206-938-0339.

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Green Day's American Idiot an exhilarating and exciting production
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Music of Remembrance launches 18th season with 'After Life' -
a FREE community concert-with-commentary at Seattle Art Museum on September 26

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The Mynabirds soar at The Sunset
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Express yourself at these Portland hotels for the big Madonna concert
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JAZZ ALLEY $10 FALL SPECIAL - Monday, September 28
Jazz Alley presents Louis Hayes and the Cannonball Legacy Band
Featuring Vincent Herring, Jeremy Pelt, Rick Germanson and Michael Glynn
Tickets: $10 (includes $4 service fee)

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JAZZ ALLEY $10 FALL SPECIAL - Tues/Wednesday, September 29 & 30
Jazz Alley presents Sonny Knight & The Lakers
Tickets: $10 (includes $4 service fee)

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Reflections on the county clerk in Kentucky
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Outspoken Grandma a fearless generational road trip
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Funny Other People a showcase for Brie and Sudeikis
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Shyamalan returns to form with creepily imaginative Visit
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