Every generation seems to have to go through spasms of rejecting society. That rejection creates not only societal tension, it also creates art. That brings us to New Line Theatre's St. Louis debut of American Idiot. Based on the Green Day album of the same name, it's a rock opera, three young men (always men...have you noticed that?) in search of Something. Anything. Johnny (Evan Fornachon) explains he's gotten the money for bus tickets for the three of them to move to the city by holding up a c-store. A pause. Well, no, actually, he says, he took it off his mother's dresser. A longer pause. Okay, she loaned it to him. So they're disaffected, but not that disaffected - not yet.
Will (Brendan Ochs) has a girlfriend (Larissa White) who appears waving something in the air. Ooops - it's a pregnancy test. So Johnny and the third member of the triumvirate, Tunny (Frederick Rice) travel on. Tunny is lured by a military recruiter. Johnny is lured by a girl, listed in the cast as Whatsername (Sarah Porter) and by St. Jimmy (Chris Kernan), an allegorical figure. Everyone seems caught in a trap of their own making. They're even angrier at the world than they were at the beginning of the no-intermission show.
So it's anomie. It's nihilism. I think I caught some medium-grade existentialism in there. Cheerful stuff, n'est-ce pas? And yet, the music carries us on. It's not great rock and roll, but it's pretty darn good. The lyrics, of course, are full of "bad" language, but no one in the audience, many of whom I suspect haven't gone to professional theatre since their grandmothers dragged them to "The Sound of Music", appeared to be bothered. Several good voices and more great ensemble singing in this score that sometimes actually allows moments where it's beautifully noticeable. And the choreography - dance captain is Cameisha Cotton, no choreographer credited - is mostly delicious, although you could sit in a hand surgeon's office for a week and not see this many middle fingers, a gesture that becomes surprisingly monotonous. Even the house band, which for this brings a violin and a cello, has a fine time with things.
I do wish directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy had done something about part of the set - Rob Lippert, the scenic designer, usually doesn't have problems like this, but the couch where the new father, Ochs, spends much of the show, is downstage right out of view of quite a lot of the audience. There are several times where a disembodied voice seems to be singing, but it's Will on the couch.
Overall, it's a decent score, an unsurprising script and a good execution thereof. Green Day fans are flocking to it, and things are busy at the Marcelle Theater.
through March 26
New Line Theatre
3310 Samuel Shepherd Drive