Only recently completing its West End run, American Idiot is still a relatively unknown musical for most. Set to the music of Green Day’s concept album, the story focuses on three restless young men searching for meaning in a post 9/11 world, and falling off the rails in the process. LAAMPS’s rendition was just as hard-hitting, confronting and raw as a musical of this intensity is required to be.
The show opened with characters placed onstage, backed with a voiceover of news clips concerning terrorist relations between the US and Afghanistan. The set was brilliantly eerie, with anti-Bush graffiti splashed against the back wall. True to form, the opening number was “American Idiot”, with characters spotlit one by one, creating a perfect level of intensity. The first few songs were extremely chorus-heavy, and it looked absolutely exhausting with such high levels of energy. Inevitably they did flag a little at times, and there were a few times people got things wrong, which may have gone unnoticed, but the actors made faces so it was more noticeable.
The choreography was generally strong with lots of attack, but there were times at which the movements lacked originality. This was only emphasised further by the fact that they were repeated on various choruses. The staging generally though was strong, and mimicked the successful formula of the West End version. One of the drawbacks of the visuals of the show was that on numerous occasions the stage felt too crowded in the solo songs, which would have been more effective had they been stripped back and left bare. “When September Ends” was a key example of this, with the whole thing feeling slightly too choreographed and structured. This was Ronan Pilkington’s best performance as Johnny, and was such a sobering song, but was interrupted by a ballet trio that took away from the impact of the scene. It would have been more impactful to be stripped back with less movement to create a contrast with some of the more aggressive group numbers.
Musically, the show was impressive. As a collective the cast created a strong sound, and their offstage vocals were always prominent and impressive. Unfortunately there were occasionally a few issues within the duets, where the harmonies were sometimes lost, particularly during key changes. The band were solid throughout, with only a few incorrect guitar chords. Cellist Euan Bright was particularly notable in some of the more moving numbers, where his part was exposed, and he created a lovely timbre.
The casting of Michael Ahomka-Lindsay (left) as St Jimmy was a genius choice, and one that made up for any other slight errors in judgement. He moved seamlessly around the stage, oozing inordinate levels of cool, and generally making most of the audience weak at the knees. His acting never felt forced, and his character was perfectly portrayed as badass, without being over the top. His falsetto, incidentally, was absolutely ludicrous. Suffice it to say, everyone is now waiting for baited breath for his performance as Danny in LUU Stage Musicals Society’s upcoming show, Grease.
Particularly notable also was Rhiannon Howells who played Heather. Her vocal control exceeded that of anyone else onstage, and her vibrato was beautiful. Alex Davison as Tunny also had a strong voice, but didn’t quite have full control over it and sometimes strayed from the melodic line. He also had the unfortunate burden of “singing face”, and his entire characterisation was lost as soon as he began to focus on his vocals. With closer direction and training though, he has great potential because his range was broad and his tone was strong.
Overall – a solid effort from LAMMPS on what is a very demanding production. It was slick and well rehearsed, and that they managed to pull a show of this scale together whilst still finding time to study for Medicine degrees is flummoxing to say the least.
Images courtesy of Kieran Moran