Green Day’s AMERICAN IDIOT may look like a mirage of three parallel wars, in three different settings; but it is enveloped in a unifying milieu in an age of defiance, rage and hysteria. It is a story of our time – about our politics, our media down to our own chosen battles. 9 Works Theatrical and Globe turn this Tony Award Winning punk-rock musical into an extremely watchable and significantly focused rendition, thus making the experience surprisingly delightful.
Set in a recent past, the musical opens with a group of young unsatisfied people in Jingletown, USA. Three friends: Johnny, Tunny and Will plan to escape the suburbia to find their lives and purposes. After escaping the city, Johnny finds himself caught up in a passionate affair with a woman and even more so, a wilder affair with drugs. Tunny finds his sense of purpose by enlisting in the Army, but is horribly scarred in the line of duty – both physically and emotionally. Meanwhile, Will, who decided to remain in Jingletown with his pregnant girlfriend, becomes too attached to his chair, desperate and stuck. As they balance their stories between rage and love they will eventually define a conflict of their generation.
Director Robbie Guevara orchestrates a rendition that feels like the 90s, but it doesn’t look dated nor overfamiliar. Directing a relatively wider platform, he brings the audiences to Johnny, Will and Tunny’s alienation, loneliness, hopelessness and anger. Despite the seemingly confusing chaos, backdropped with Green Day’s alternative genre, Guevara efficiently maintains a narrative focus as we follow along the stories of the three central characters.
GA Fallarme‘s scenic projections merge so beautifully with Mio Infante‘s dimensional set. As the narrative spins the three plot lines, Fallarme and Infante’s visual marriage unites a stunning collage of time, space and dimensions. Daniel Bartolome’s orchestration merges well with Onyl Torres‘ vocal direction taking the audience beyond the theater experience. It is piercing, wildly outrageous (at times), and ultimately satisfying.
Nel Gomez plays the purposive Tunny with heartfelt sincerity and soul. The consequence of his chosen battle soon becomes the center of his story, and Gomez solidly delivers a warm portrayal of a man trapped in his own denouement. Jason Fernandez is willy and an amazing watch as Johnny. Fernandez transforms the theater to a concert hall without dismissing character and intent. Miggy Chavez places the detached Will in the center of his character’s world, offering a persona of an alienated man stuck in his own consequence. Worthy to mention are Yanah Laurel’s Whatsername and Ela Lisondra’s Extraordinary Girl. Laurel portrays the passionate lover, seemingly blinded by her love for a lost man. Lisondra, in the song “Extraordinary Girl,” offers a refreshing break with her electrifying mid-air dance and fantastic belt.
But it is Basti Artadi as the diabolocial St. Jimmy, who brings the house down with his mesmerizing persona and incredible presence. As Johnny’s alter-ego, Artadi balances both character and performance, and sustains such energy from his first entrance to his last. Artadi, who had played Jesus in Atlantis Production’s JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, returns to the Philippine stage with the same intensity, however, this time – with more wit, more freedom.
AMERICAN IDIOT comes with a “postcard” narrative about our own chosen battles. In his journeys, Johnny texts postcards to tell about his adventures, his pains and his silent wars. No wonder we hear his rather robotic spoken prose in between the numbers. It was during the time when mobile phones were still a luxury, and sending email postcards were the thing. Despite its milieu, this local production of AMERICAN IDIOT becomes a 2-hour nostalgic treat for someone who bathed in the music of the 90s – its music, magic and glam. Seeing it on an unlikely stage made me feel like I was in a UP Fair once again.
I never thought I’d enjoy a rock concert/musical this much. Rolling Stones’ Peter Travers (2010) was right when he said that this show’s a “global knockout.” Through this production 9 Work Theatrical and Globe offer “a new kind of tension” for Philippine Theater. And it is a good, and relevant, pulsing tension for our local stage!
This production could be as alternative as its form, yet they delivered so wonderfully.Its themes argue that battles may never be won, but we can embrace and accept our defeat, and that in itself could be more than enough for a happy ending.
As this production closes its curtains, you’ll soon realize that it has “sent a postcard” of love and acceptance; and – magically – it went through!
PHOTOS BY: Ms. Trixie Dauz