American Idiot The Musical - Mayflower Southampton Review

I am a huge fan of musicals that take inspiration from both popular culture and the political landscape as a whole. So when American Idiot the musical first burst onto the scene it was one that got me both intrigued and excited. Not only did it play to my love of musicals based in a modern day but as a once self proclaimed scene kid, a musical set to an album of my childhood was something to be impressed with. 

Set in a post 9/11 America, American Idiot sets the scene with three best friends who are frankly delinquents that don't know what they want to do with their lives. They are fed up with the system, they don't want to conform or be controlled and just want to run free and break away from their small town. Shown to a soundtrack from the album of the same name by Green Day, these three friends all head down completely different paths. Whilst all may feel like they are headed down the right one, each sees the other as having made bad choices in their lives. This intertwining story isn't a pretty one, but boy is it enjoyable to watch.

I have to admit that the story itself was pretty hard to follow. Set as a rock opera, American Idiot mostly comprised as singing, and at times it felt hard to work out what was going on as things were changing so fast it felt hard to keep up. Whilst that didn't take away from the show at all, it did feel like as a seasoned theatre veteran that I should not have been a lost in the underlying story, but I definitely felt it. Whilst you followed each of the characters on their own journey into adulthood, it was hard to see what was reality and what was fantasy. That's not to say that I didn't love the show, it's just that I felt that I was referring to the programme a fair bit it digest what I was watching. 

On the subject of finding things hard to digest, the stories themselves were full of sadness and definitely not suitable for a younger audience. From having a child young and feeling trapped in the system, to going to war and suffering PTSD, to becoming addicted to drugs and struggling with substance abuse, each of the characters stories were full of massive highs and lows that really shook me at times. A 5 minute scene in complete silence as the one of the main characters took some drugs was a tad hard to swallow but visually fantastic. 

The cast itself was a slightly star studded one with famous faces including X-Factor's Luke Friend as Saint Jimmy, the drug dealer that has the life everyone wants to live and Tom Milner as Johnny. The whole cast were perfect at adding a rock twist to the classic musical genre and the live band really left you feeling like you were at a concert as opposed to the theatre. 

Whilst I really enjoyed the show it was easy to draw comparisons with one of my all time favourite musicals, Rent. Both are set in a time where people want to rebel against the system, both talk about the drugs epidemic and there's even a hospital scene that seemed far too familiar to me. Whilst I admire American Idiot for bringing these issues to light again, it's easy to be reminded that this has already been created in a musical before. But that might just be me nit picking, for Rent is one of my favourite musicals and it is far too close to my heart. 

All in all thought, the show was pretty awesome. It was a night of pure rock indulgence, one that had me tapping my feet and headbanging in my seat along with the songs of my adolescence. Whilst I may not have fallen in love with the show, it's one that is clearly a fantastic gateway and introduction to musical theatre for many that choose to see it. And the cheers, whoops and standing ovation that happened whilst they took their final bows definitely told the tale of show success. 

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