REVIEW: American Idiot by Dare To Go Theatre, Winter Gardens, Morecambe

The cast of American Idiot by Dare To Go Theatre. Photo from Dare To Go Facebook page.
The cast of American Idiot by Dare To Go Theatre. Photo from Dare To Go Facebook page.

American Idiot by Green Day was one of my favourite albums of the mid-noughties.

But I had no idea it had been turned into a musical until hearing about this production in Morecambe.

Curious, I went along to the Winter Gardens on Good Friday night for the third of four nightly performances by Dare To Go.

The wait for the show to start was made more enjoyable by a PA system soundtrack of classic punk by The Stranglers, The Sex Pistols, The Undertones and The Clash.

Then the musical came racing out of the blocks with an in-your-face routine to the title track ‘American Idiot’.

This was a young cast, made up of people mainly in their 20s. They created an edgy energy perfect for a musical about post-9/11 disaffected youth.

The musical explored adult themes of sex and drugs, with bad language throughout, so had a 16 plus age recommendation.

The plot centred around three male friends who become separated when two leave their small American home town in search of a better life, in the aftermath of the World Trade Centre attacks of 2001, struggling to cope with the climate of fear in the US.

One ends up spiralling into drugs, the other joins the army while the third sits at home watching TV and drinking while his girlfriend gets pregnant then leaves him.

‘American Idiot’ was 90 minutes of near-continuous Green Day music in one act. There was very little spoken narrative in between.

The cast told the story through expressively powerful song and dance.

The singing was of very high quality. All three male leads, James Shields (Johnny), Glen Hanmer (Tunny) and Ethan Oakeshott (Will) have strong voices, with James particularly shining in his solo spots. Jamie-Leigh Currie (Whatsername), Amy Lawton (Heather) and Sophie Butler (Alysha) also had chance to show off their powerful vocals.

Paul Jones also deserves mention for his absorbing stage presence as the drug-dealing St Jimmy.

But all in all ‘American Idiot’ was very much a team effort. There were no weak links in either the cast or the live band, who performed classic songs such as ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’ and ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ with such skill at times they sounded like a recording of Green Day themselves. And the choreography on the dance routines was superb.

With its exposed behind-stage brick work and jaw-dropping architecture, the Winter Gardens was the ideal home for such a production.

It was great to see the venue being used in such a creative way and indeed to see cutting edge live theatre in Morecambe over the Easter weekend.

GREG LAMBERT