Tuesday, June 28, 2016

reviews - AMERICAN IDIOT - Stray Cat Theatre

Nicholas John Gearing and Cast
Photo by John Groseclose
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through July 16th.

"...Depending on age, attitude and, more importantly, musical taste, not all rock and roll fans warm to Green Day, and that’s a major hurdle to climb when it comes to enjoying the show...As for inspiring a musical, the album was probably the last thing you’d expect to hear playing on Broadway...The band’s simple though raucous anthem to angst, frustration and the sense of being trapped in a media-induced hell hit its target....this isn’t Broadway, not in the traditional sense.  It’s more like strapping into your seat for a ninety-minute, uninterrupted rock ‘n roller coaster ride where frustration and Green Day’s temper come at you with the full velocity of an out-of-control tornado, and little concern for those who don’t like it; they need to just get out of the way. An issue with American Idiot, particularly those fresh to the music with little prior knowledge, is one of coherence.  Without knowing much about the show ahead of seeing it, there’s an inherent problem of trying to figure out what’s going on.  Lyricist Billie Joe Armstrong may write some great songs, but he doesn’t tell a good story...Stray Cat’s presentation becomes thrilling early into the show once you realize that Ron May isn’t simply recreating what was seen before – both the Broadway production and the following tour left many dazzled with ears ringing and no clue of what had just unfolded – but with several directorial flourishes and inventions of his own, plus outstanding work from Lisa Starry’s high-energy choreography, much of that needed narrative clarity falls into place.  There are still moments when you may not know why certain things are occurring or where the characters are in relation to each other, but the general flow of events and their reasons for being are considerably clearer.  With a book such as American Idiot, that’s an achievement...Alan Khoutakoun’s androgynous drug-dealing character St. Jimmy grabs your attention by appearance alone....The show is not as profound as it may appear and its superficial political message of a media-induced society creating a generation of idiots won’t ring true for everyone ...It’s a musical with a visceral punch; it attacks the senses, not engages, and that’s what audiences seem to respond to the most.  The end result, even if Stray Cat’s overall design is somewhat scaled down, is a production far more enjoyable, and certainly more coherent, than the professional tour. " -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"Green Day's punk rock album "American Idiot" exploded on the music scene in 2004 and struck a chord with the disillusioned youth of America who were coming of age in the dawn of the post-9/11 haze. ...While I have a few reservations about the show itself and its slightly confusing plot, Stray Cat's production has a talented cast, excellent choreography, and solid direction that fills in some of the plot holes and frames the piece with video segments that are timely in their resonance...best friends Johnny, Will and Tunny who are all frustrated at life and the world they live in, so each goes on a journey of self-discovery...Johnny chooses drugs and Tunny chooses the military while Will finds his future chosen for him....While the score for this show is stellar, I have some issues...due to the fact that it is a largely sung-through musical with a very minimal book...The lack of dialogue makes the plot extremely basic while also somewhat convoluted.....Stray Cat can't be faulted for the shortcomings in the book, and director Ron May does his best to fill in some of the gaps....his direction clear and concise which helps to not overpower the plot....choreographer Lisa Starry delivers an abundance of superb and engaging movement that adds to and play off of May's active and dynamic direction. The cast that May has found help make this a truthful and believable tale, with no pretension or false moves made throughout, led by the three male leads, Nicholas John Gearing, David Samson and Eric Boudreau, as Johnny, Tunny and Will. All three characters are forced into adulthood and struggle with their own inner demons and these three actors all effectively portray the vulnerability their characters feel at times through expressive facial gestures, body movement and raw, emotional filled singing...Alan Khoutakoun achieves a rich, seductive, calculated and winning portrayal of Johnny's drug dealing alter-ego St. Jimmy...Creative elements are sublime with the combination of Eric Beeck's simple yet clear scenic design, Dallas Nichols' stellar media design, and Daniel Davisson's stunning lighting providing a constantly changing environment with imagery that transports the production through time and space. ...American Idiot...will most likely have a different outcome depending on how you approach it...for those who know all too well the hardship of dealing with broken dreams and fighting your own inner demons, American Idiot will most likely prove a raw, emotional experience. While I can't say I'm exactly in that...group, I do believe the experience of hearing these songs performed live by a talented cast and with clear direction and winning creative elements helps to overcome some of the shortfalls in the show's narrative. In that respect this Stray Cat production delivers exceptionally well." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"...“American Idiot,” based on Green Day’s 2004 phenomenal album...is now having its local premiere at Stray Cat Theatre...a dynamically presented production staged brilliantly by Ron May and performed exquisitely by an impressive cast....presented here in the perfect space....May uses the space to let his actors run wild but this is the best way to stage today’s off-beat shows....“American Idiot” looks at the way today’s younger generation treats traditional values and how differently they rise to the challenges....In some respects, “American Idiot” is passé but it captures an era and explains it.....The throbbing score tell the story with a theatrical flair.  An excellent band captures Green Day’s style.  The cluttered stage and split second scene shifts create new locales smoothly for the flawless cast....the only problem is that occasional lyrics are lost due to amplification issues....“American Idiot” is not a typical musical but if you yearn for something stylistically unique, rush to Stray Cat Theatre’s “American Idiot” that continues through July 16." --Chris Curcio, KBAQ (click here to read the complete review)

"...surprise is what director Ron May and his cast — abetted by some strikingly expressionistic choreography by Lisa Starry of Scorpius Dance Theatre — deliver in a propulsive and poignant production... a vibrantly original interpretation....“American Idiot” is a punk-rock opera about 20-something angst and alienation in the post-9/11 era. ... the characters are thumbnail sketches rather than detailed portraits, which presents both a challenge and an opportunity to the actors charged with bringing them to life. Nicholas John Gearing...as Johnny.... makes for an endearingly nihilistic rabble-rouser...his performance feels utterly sincere....The most thrilling revelation...is the young Alan Khoutakoun as St. Jimmy, Johnny’s charismatic drug dealer... Khoutakoun’s high-heeled Jimmy is androgynous and feline, a mesmerizing Grace Jones figure who sings like a fever dream....Starry’s choreography is frenetic and emotive, turning the ensemble into a sort of kinetic Greek chorus. And May’s inventive staging is packed with evocative moments..." - Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)

"Each generation responds in its own distinctive way to the excesses and profligacies of its society. ...
In 2004, in the aftermath of the World Trade Center bombings and in the wake of America's invasion of Iraq...GREEN DAY's AMERICAN IDIOT entered the fray, and Billie Joe Armstrong's canon of lyrics...resonated with fans who were fed up with political deception and the commercialization of everything. ...Ron May ...has further propelled his arc of artistic excellence with a stunning staging of AMERICAN IDIOT, and, in turn, reveals the work's continued relevance. The production is a triumph in every sense of the word. May can lay claim to a trifecta of oomphs, oomphatically!...
...The choreography of Scorpius Dance Theatre's Lisa Starry is compelling, vital, and muscular....The ensemble of fifteen is terrific, a dynamic display of the treasure of talent in the Phoenix area. The performances are electrifying. ...AMERICAN IDIOT may also be an anthem about the nihilism, narcissism, and self-indulgence of a specific cohort of alienated and despondent youth. ...The cultural toxicity to which the music refers is vividly revealed in the backdrop of streaming vidclips displaying the crude antics of reality TV, the commercialization of the body and beauty, the bloviating of politicians, and the malicious dumbing down of America. However one ultimately Ron May's staging of GREEN DAY's AMERICAN IDIOT is a cause for celebration. It is an affirmation of the power of the theatre not only to entertain but also to provoke contemplation.  For certain, the show is a blast and a resounding success"  -Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

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