Archive for John Gallagher Jr.
The reviews for the Green Day album-turned-musical, American Idiot, have come out and critics were quite pleased with the production, with a few reservations. Some called it the best musical of the season (and even of the 21st century), while others were a bit more discerning – pointing to a thin plot covered up by spectacle, lights and sound. They do all agree on one thing – this musical, following in the footsteps of Hair and Spring Awakening, is a rock-opera unlike anything Broadway audiences have seen before.
The New York Times
In any case the music is thrilling: charged with urgency, rich in memorable melody and propulsive rhythms that sometimes evolve midsong. The orchestrations by Tom Kitt… move from lean and mean to lush, befitting the tone of each number. Even if you are unfamiliar with Green Day’s music, you are more likely to emerge from this show humming one of the guitar riffs than you are to find a tune from The Addams Family tickling your memory. But the emotion charge that the show generates is as memorable as the music. American Idiot jolts you right back to the dizzying roller coaster of young adulthood, that turbulent time when ecstasy and misery almost seem interchangeable states, flip sides of the coin of exaltation. It captures with a piercing intensity that moment in life when everything seems possible, and nothing seems worth doing, or maybe it’s the other way around. Read Full Review
Undoubtedly the best new musical of the season…Green Day’s songs are what propel the narrative, and they are ingeniously employed, sometimes in rather unexpected ways…American Idiot perhaps most resembles Hair, insomuch as it showcases one stunning song after another with just a loose narrative frame to hold it together, and a clear emotional throughline…But while Armstrong’s lyrics are laced with pessimism, the music is often buoyantly exuberant, which is one of the main reasons it succeeds as an amazing theatrical experience. Read Full Review
American Idiot, the show, delivers a thick, gorgeous head rush of a musical soundscape without current Broadway parallel. It turns out to offer the kind of sensual lushness that a lot more traditional musicals would kill to emulate. That’s mostly due to the brilliance of Tom Kitt’s orchestrations, adding violin, cello, weight and gravitas to the Green Day sound without blunting its aggressive edge. With the gifted director Michael Mayer spreading his eight-member band out across a beautifully cacophonous setting — more a video-filled installation, really — from Christine Jones that evokes a constant blaring of Fox News in an endless sea of 7-Eleven parking lots and crappy urban apartments, you get a stunning musical wash of all corners of human emotion. Read Full Review
Doris Lessing once said that every generation thinks that it discovered sex. The same could be said for drugs and rock ’n’ roll. The new Broadway musical American Idiot can have nothing especially new to reveal about any of these subjects but it does reinvent them in such a way as to make them once again feel a little more dangerous and a lot more alive. Read Full Review
The book fails to develop these characters beyond their initial conflicts, and it wouldn’t hurt to have more than a few diary entries from Johnny to guide us. Nevertheless, the dynamic score—the jagged lyrics are by Armstrong, who also composed the driving music, with Mike Dirnt and Trè Cool—leads us into the frazzled psyches of an aimless portion of America’s Generation Y. Tom Kitt, credited with musical supervision, arrangements, and orchestrations, builds a bridge between the worlds of rock and Broadway by making the songs accessible to general audiences without losing the chest-slamming intensity. Read Full Review
If Spring Awakening was the birth of genuine rock musicals on Broadway, then American Idiot is its worthy son. Not as groundbreaking or original as its precocious papa in 2006, the punk-pop opera based on Green Day’s multiplatinum album is an exuberant assault – a slick and tough 95-minute package of alienated suburban youth, media overstimulation and seamless, high-concept theatricality. Read Full Review
The Hollywood Reporter
Although the original concept album is reasonably cohesive, it’s a thin premise on which to base a musical, and the show’s book, by the band’s Billie Joe Armstrong and director Michael Mayer, doesn’t manage to flesh it out sufficiently. Telling its story largely through music and movement with only a smattering of dialogue, “Idiot” never manages to make us care about the fate of its thinly drawn characters. Still, there’s a lot of passion onstage, and Mayer has provided the sort of propulsive staging that helps put the material over. Read Full Review
The first great musical of the 21st century… it’s not just one more trendy flash-in-the-pan, but the climax of a journey towards a rock Parnassus that the American musical theatre has been on for these past 40 years. Read Full Review
Even with Gallagher thrashing around at its center, American Idiot satisfies in spite of all that’s working against it — including the passage of time (and a presidency) that’s rendered much of its discontent obsolete. Yet the establishment of a new government and its new outlook on America and its future has not been a universal salve, so the young’s quest for absolution and understanding continues. Whether this will be their musical remains to be seen. That it otherwise seems to be everyone’s, in spite of being no real musical at all, is the kind of maddening, exciting contradiction only the theatre can engender. Read Full Review
The musical, which opened Tuesday at the St. James Theatre, is short, some 95 minutes. Just right for an MTV generation weaned on YouTube clips and music videos. “American Idiot,” in fact, plays like one. Wildly diverting to look it, the show has the barest wisp of a story and minimal character development. At best, its slacker guys are sketchy portraits, prototypes rather than real people. Fortunately, there are compensations, most notably the show’s highly theatrical, punk-rock score, sung by a high-energy cast, headed by John Gallagher Jr. The gifted actor, a Tony winner for Spring Awakening, portrays Johnny, the show’s petulant antihero who flees a deadening suburbia and descends into sex, drugs and fierce guitar playing in his quest to find himself in the big city. Read Full Review
American Idiot — a new musical built around the songbook of the popular alternative-rock trio, which opened Tuesday night at the St. James Theatre — suggests that as the foundation of melodic drama, the rebellious-youth thing is getting old. Presented in a visually dazzling package, with coolly aggressive dance steps and the group’s exhilarating songs, the show qualifies as a pulsating album in three dimensions, a gallery of zestfully choreographed music videos. The 90 minutes make for such stimulating spectacle, I would happily sit through them again. And yet, in its attempt to knit a story out of a band’s discography, American Idiot comes across as ordinary. Too many other productions of recent vintage have taken us over this same rocky terrain, the landscape of youthful alienation. It’s surprising how a show with enough imaginative candlepower to light a stadium can appear to have invested so little energy in illuminating its characters, or devising an involving narrative. Read Full Review
The result, though vivid and lurid and imaginatively depraved, is also somewhat inarticulate, spraying its boilerplate discontent at no one in particular, with a lotta standard-issue bitching about The Media and The Man. At least the Spring Awakening crew had onstage clueless grown-ups to rebel against. Of the two dudes who actually get off the couch (seriously, the third one spends the whole rest of the show there, literally drinking bong water, his girl and their newborn baby eventually fleeing in disgust), Johnny (played by breakout SA star John Gallagher Jr.) gets hooked on drugs and does the usual hooked-on-drugs stuff, while Tunny (the excellently named Stark Sands) is enraptured by a charismatic, all-American, media-saturating beefcake dude into joining the Armed Forces and heading off to the Middle East, where he immediately loses his leg and does not-at-all-usual lost-my-leg-in-the-Middle-East stuff—namely, a Peter Pan–style, cable-assisted midair ballet tangle with a nurse who strips off her burka to reveal Princess Jasmine’s outfit from Disney’s Aladdin. To the tune of “Extraordinary Girl.” Read Full Review
NY Daily News
If you’re content to just let the pop-rock and color and lights sweep you up, you’re going to have a good time. But don’t go expecting a plot with any edge or richness… You won’t get any of that. So while it misses at being a breakthrough musical, Idiot could be called a breakneck event – if just for the insistent beat that turns audiences into noggin-nodding bobbleheads. You don’t see that at South Pacific. Read Full Review
Remember the aughts? Or naughts? Or whatever we finally decided to call those crappy Bush years? No? Then you, my friend, are the target audience for American Idiot, Michael Mayer’s dizzyingly miscalculated adaptation of the excellent 2004 concept album by the pop-punk band Green Day. But this musical—a half-exploitative, half-lobotomized attempt to fake a youthgasm—has none of the power of that album, coming as it does from a now-middle-aged rocker (composer, book writer, and Green Day front man Billie Joe Armstrong) and director (Mayer, who proposed and co-conceived this embarrassing feedback loop in the afterglow of Spring Awakening’s success). It’s a self-described “rock opera” set in a self-created “Recent Past,” and it purports to evoke, with a single tear and a power chord, the confusing days of the terror-stricken early 21st century, when we yo-yoed from cowed powerlessness to inchoate fury. Well, confusing and inchoate this show most definitely is: Its version of youthful anomie is so far off the mark, and such a muddled conflation of vague Gen-X nostalgia and generic rebellion sample tracks, that the effect is almost comical. But mostly just irritating. Read Full Review
Cast for the Broadway Mounting of Green Day’s American Idiot Will Include John Gallagher Jr., Stark Sands and Michael Esper
Producers just announced that John Gallagher Jr. (Spring Awakening), Stark Sands and Michael Esper will star in Broadway’s American Idiot, the new Green Day musical opening April 20 at the St. James Theatre.
Director Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening) co-wrote the book with Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong. Music and lyrics are all by Green Day, with songs taken from their albums “American Idiot” and “21st Century Breakdown.”
The other creative team members include two-time Tony Award-winning composer and orchestrator Tom Kitt (Next to Normal), Olivier Award-winning choreographer Steven Hoggett, Tony nominated scenic designer Christine Jones (Spring Awakening), costume designer Andrea Lauer, two-time Tony Award-winning lighting designer Kevin Adams (Hair), Obie Award-winning sound designer Brian Ronan (Cabaret), video designer Darrel Maloney and music director Carmel Dean.
Gallagher Jr., Sands and Esper are joined by Rebecca Naomi Jones (Passing Strange), Christina Sajous (The Wild Party), Mary Faber (Avenue Q) and Tony Vincent (Jesus Christ Superstar) as well as an ensemble that includes: Declan Bennett (Rent), Andrew Call (Cry-Baby), Gerard Canonico (Spring Awakening), Miguel Cervantes (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), Joshua Henry (In the Heights), Van Hughes (Hairspray), Brian Charles Johnson (Spring Awakening), Joshua Kobak (Rent), Lorin Latarro (Movin’ Out), Omar Lopez-Cepero, Leslie McDonel (Hairspray), Chase Peacock, Theo Stockman (Hair), Ben Thompson, Alysha Umphress, Aspen Vincent and Libby Winters.
The cast will be appearing with Green Day at the Grammy Awards, singing “21 Guns.” (The Grammys will air on CBS on Jan 31 at 8-11:30 PM).
Can’t wait for this one to hit the Great White Way! Apparently, it’s turning musical theater on its head.
In both incarnations, the music is at once hummable and subversive, driving and spellbinding.
I’m thrilled from the very start of Michael Mayer’s collaboration with Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, Friday night at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The opening notes of the show’s eponymous song – accompanied by aggressive headbanging from leading man John Gallagher Jr. as Johnny, aka “Jesus of Suburbia” – rip through the 600-seat Roda Theatre, and everyone sits up a little straighter.
Much, but not all, of this audience – nine weeks into the run, as the show enters the final days of its final extension in Berkeley – have come because they’re either fans of the band or have heard the buzz about how great this show is (the San Jose Mercury News calls it “the hottest show of a searing fall theater season”). There are teenagers in fingerless gloves sitting next to early-60’s couples who are there as part of their subscriber packages, but the latter are the minority; this is a young crowd. So when those first notes blast out across the theatre, we know what we’re in for.
The music is loud. Berkeley Rep offers earplugs in the lobby – a concession, I suppose, to subscribers who might be used to a more traditional brand of theatre – but I eschew them. There is no question that this music – on stage or through headphones – is meant to be heard at maximum decibels.
Because I know the “American Idiot” album so well (in addition to Green Day’s newer “21st Century Breakdown,” from which an additional four songs are culled for the show), I expect it to take some getting used to to hear voices other than Billie Joe’s on these particular melodies and lyrics. But Gallagher has a similar grittiness to his voice, and his delivery is so perfectly rebellious, that it proves easy to put Billie Joe’s image on the back burner, and buy into these as our protagonist’s original and mutinous thoughts.
American Idiot is a sung-through musical – very little dialogue is used outside the songs. At first, I don’t love the effect; it makes the few spoken lines seem somewhat awkward, as if they have been added only to fill in gaps in the exposition of the music. In addition, I worry that patrons who are not already familiar with Green Day might miss a lot of the context; the lyrics come fast and furious, and without previous knowledge of the words, I can imagine that a lot could go over an audience member’s head.
But then I have a little revelation about this show.
American Idiot is not like other musicals. In fact, the more I think about it, the more it doesn’t really strike me as “musical theatre” at all.
I’m going to venture to say that American Idiot is a brand new form of theatre: the long-form, live-staged Rock Music Video.
Not a jukebox musical; not even an adaptation (any more than Lady Gaga’s new video is an adaptation of her hit single “Bad Romance”). This is the artists’ own fleshing out of their vision – but instead of being done on-screen, it’s brought to us live in-person: loud and unapologetic, completely impossible to tune out or otherwise ignore (even if you don’t catch every word.)
I’m watching Gallagher and his castmates, but I am also taking in a remarkable set, soaring up stories into the theatre’s fly system. A huge, flat back wall is papered with newspaper headlines, advertisements and propaganda all in black and white; nearly 30 televisions are scattered at random on all levels, showing animation, commercials, old TV-show clips, Bush-era news items, and violent explosions. The band (not Green Day themselves, kids) is onstage amongst the actors, with musicians on several levels of a fire-escape-ish scaffolding reminiscent of Collins’ Christmas tree in Rent. Half a car, one actor, and later a shopping cart, hang from the rafters. There is so much to look at that I’m at once overwhelmed and mesmerized, which I suspect is exactly the intention of the designers.
From the breathtaking set and lighting design, to an exhaustingly full-body commitment from Gallagher, to a strong supporting cast (it’s a pleasure to see Spring Awakening alums Gerard Canonico and a hardly recognizable Brian Charles Johnson in the ensemble, plus the bewitching Rebecca Naomi Jones from Passing Strange as the leading lady “Whatshername”), there is little I’d have changed. I was rapt from start to finish, wishing from the first number that I’d be in Berkeley long enough to see the show again.
In addition to Gallagher and Jones, I must single out Tony Vincent as St. Jimmy, a striking and unusual actor who brings Jimmy to life as one part Vampire, three parts Hypnotist, and altogether scary/beautiful. Jimmy is Johnny’s bad influence, the devil on his shoulder, who introduces him to heroin; it’s not entirely clear if he actually exists or if he’s a kind of “Brad-Pitt-in-Fight-Club” manifestation of Johnny’s battle with his own dark side. In any case, I find it impossible to tear my eyes away from Vincent, with his half-shaved head and alienesque ultra-long arms; not to mention a voice that peels through the Roda Theatre with a clarity that would enthrall even the most skeptical gray-haired matinee lady.
There is some tweaking to be done before the show comes to Broadway. I’m thinking specifically of a high-wire hospital dance in which Johnny’s buddy Tunny (Matt Caplan), injured at war, hallucinates an “Extraordinary Girl” in Middle Eastern dress (the flying struck me as just a little too “Princess Jasmine on a Magic Carpet”).
But overall, American Idiot is a force – exhilerating, thought-provoking, and powerful. As Passing Strange (also a Berkeley Rep original) brought us Broadway’s first Live Concert/ Storytelling hybrid, American Idiot breaks ground as the first live-action, album-length Music Video to hit the Great White Way.
There’s no date announced yet for the Broadway incarnation of the show, and its New York home has not yet been revealed (although I’m hearing buzz that Jujamcyn Theaters is interested, which means it will likely end up at the St. James, the Walter Kerr, or the Eugene O’Neill). But the show is coming to Broadway, which means you’ll have no excuse to miss it.
Trust me, you’ll want to see American Idiot. And just think – someday, you can tell your kids you were there when Green Day broke theatrical ground.