DOMA Theatre Company returns for its second sensational show of the year with a head-bangingly thrilling intimate staging of Green Day’s American Idiot.
Introduced to New York audiences back in 2010 as “The Groundbreaking Broadway Musical,” American Idiot broke ground indeed with its high-volume soundtrack, expletive-laced book and lyrics, and Fuck-The-Establishment attitude.
Based largely on Green Day’s 2004 concept album of the same name, American Idiot recounts A Year In The Life of three societally alienated best friends and does so almost entirely in song (music by Green Day, lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong) plus the barest minimum of dialog (book by Armstrong and Michael Mayer).
The Green Day Musical introduces us to best buds Johnny (Jess Ford), Tunny (Chris Kerrigan), and Will (Wesley Moran), whose plans for an escape from the stifling constraints of suburbia pan out for only the first two, Will opting not so willingly to stay behind with his pregnant girlfriend Heather (Jackee Bianchi).
Life in Metropolis proves too much for Tunny, who ends up enlisting in the Army and getting shipped off to desert combat. Johnny, on the other hand, sticks it out in the big city with a girl named Whatsername (Renee Cohen), a devilish alter ego known as St. Jimmy (Andrew Diego), and a possibly heroin-induced Extraordinary Girl (Cassandra Nuss).
With its punk rock score, nihilistic storylines, and profusion of sex, drugs, and the F word, American Idiot makes its rock musical predecessor Rent seem relatively tame by comparison, yet it never lets us forget the humanity of its three heroes.
As for AI’s music score, Green Day’s melodies turn out to be so unexpectedly melodic and catchy under the pulsating drum beats and electric guitar licks that even those not accustomed to listening to contemporary rock may find themselves humming as they leave the theater. (The musical includes all the songs from the band’s 2004 American Idiot album, plus added tracks from 21st Century Breakdown, and songs recorded for but not included on the American Idiot CD).
Director Marco Gomez’s inspired staging ensures that, despite virtually no spoken dialog, we are able to follow Johnny, Tunny, and Will’s storylines, most especially Tunny’s desert-storm army experience, but also Johnny’s descent into drugs and Will’s dissatisfaction at an unasked for life.
The charismatic Ford commands the stage once again as he did in DOMA’s The Who’s Tommy, sings electrically with hints of Neil Young in his sexy vocals, and strums the guitar to perfection. Kerrigan has never been better, or better cast, than he is as Tunny, dynamic work from the DOMA regular both as actor and singer. Moran makes the most of American Idiot’s least developed character, his rich, resonant voice a particular ear-pleaser.
As for St. Jimmy, performers don’t get any more electric than Diego, who surpasses his operatic bass brilliance in DOMA’s Jesus Christ Superstar with Jimmy’s devilish sex appeal and his own soaring rock vocals.
The women are terrific too, especially Cohen, fresh off her star turn as Mary Magdalene in JCSS, all edge and sex appeal and powerhouse vocals as Whatsername. Bianchi brings particular poignancy to Heather, and the always excellent Nuss soars, quite literally, as Extraordinary Girl.
Todaro’s choreography eschews MTV showiness in favor of storytelling, and scores some of the DOMA staple’s highest marks, particularly as executed by ensemble members Alex Allen, Sandra Diana Cantu, Tony Cellucci, Kevin Corsini, Everjohn Feliciano, Blair Grotbeck, Lillian Manansala, Angeline Mirenda, Johnny Ortiz, Nohely Quiroz, Michael Anthony Restaino, Brittany Rodin, Marni Stone, Dekontee Tucrkile, Lauren Tyni, Ty West, and dance captain Anthony D. Willis, acing the workout of their lives in costume after costume and dance after dance. And this is one American Idiot ensemble who actually look like they could be early-2000s Green Day listeners.
Individual vocal performance kudos are due a Men’s Fitness cover-ready Grotbeck for “Favorite Son” and an equally appealing Cellucci for “Rock and Roll Girlfriend,” the dynamic duos of Feliciano and Cantu for “Too Much Too Soon” and Allen and Feliciano for “East 12th Street,” and the tremendous trio of Corsini, Grotbeck, and Restaino for “Before The Labotomy.” (Cellucci, Corsini, Grotbeck, Quiroz, Rodin, and Tyni are scheduled to understudy lead roles at selected performances.)
Wunderkind musical director Chris Raymond and his onstage band—Raymond plus David Abrams, Graham Chapman, Andy Moresi, and Logan Shrewsbury—do Green Day proud with their rockspertise.
Scenic designer John Iacovelli’s rave-ready multi-level industrial set suits American Idiot to a T, with special snaps to the movable multi-purpose tower that shows off Ford’s gravity-defying athleticism in addition to inspiring some of Todaro’s most delightful choreographic moments in “Holiday.”
Lighting and projection designer Jean-Yves Tessier works the same wonders on a 99-seat stage as he does in major regional productions, and sound designer Julie Ferrin’s mix of vocals and instrumentals is as pitch-perfect as it gets.
As for Michael Mullen’s grungelcious costumes, they may be stylistically as far removed from his award-winning Dreamgirls gowns as imaginable, but they are every bit as sensational, and dozens more than I could possibly count.
Additional kudos go to makeup designer Jessica Kuhns and props designer Hallie Baran.
Gabrieal Griego is production manager/assistant director. Laura Forst is stage manager. Brad Bentz is technical director
Green Day’s American Idiot is produced by Gomez, Dolf Ramos, and Raymond.
If advance ticket sales of the already extended American Idiot plus the much deserved cheers that greeted its Opening Night performance add up to hit status, then Green Day’s American Idiot is yet another DOMA hit, and likely to be one of the hottest tickets in town for quite some time to come.
DOMA Theatre Co. @ The MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hollywood.
June 5, 2015
Photos: Michael Lamont