Green Day’s american IDIOT (Work Light Productions) plays at the Hippodrome through Sunday, May 12th.
I would typically warn that this is a non-Equity cast, but this cast proves that talent doesn’t have to be in a union to exist!
As usual, I will not give a synopsis of the show, but I will say that if you are not a fan of Green Day’s music or aren’t open to becoming a fan, this may not be the show for you. I like Green Day and I actually found the show to be more entertaining than a Green Day concert, but there were a few people who walked out before the third song was even over. I can understand how they didn’t like the show, but give it a chance people! The cast is so talented! The beginning is very well done with voice-overs from news and TV shows from around 2000 to get you into the mindset of the time period. The set is very “Rent”-like, but on steroids. It’s a very industrial, warehouse type setting with 30 or so flat screens which are used throughout the show. I like the set since it allows the cast to really be seen, and seen they are! The ensemble is very well utilized and has A LOT to do. I particularly like that secondary characters are in the ensemble for the whole show. The choreography is fantastic and this cast executes with such precision. You can tell that they were rehearsed until it was second nature. From start to finish the energy of the cast reaches the audience and really brings you in. Naturally, the show starts off with the anthem “American Idiot” and the whole cast dancing. You are immediately sucked in by the music and choreography.
The leading men are introduced as Johnny, Will, and Tunny. Johnny, played by Alex Nee, is the lead rocker of the trio and Nee definitely embodies the type. Johnny was loosely modeled after Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong and while Nee definitely looks the part and sings very well, there is a sort of disconnect with him. I don’t believe that he and his boys have been friends forever. If Nee is on his own, playing guitar and singing, he is great, but when it comes to them performing together, his attitude onstage pulls away from his surroundings. I’m not sure if this is on purpose, but his too cool for school vibe became a problem for me.
As the show progresses, he is overshadowed by pals Will and Tunny. Will is played expertly by Casey O’Farrell with his melodic tone and instant leading man presence. I have a feeling we’ll all be seeing more of him in the years ahead! He made me wish the part was larger so that I could hear him sing more and he made me realize that though the show revolves around the three, Will and Tunny seem slighted. Johnny narrates and takes most of the show, but I would definitely have liked more of all of the other characters.
Tunny, played by Dustin Harris Smith, is my other favorite of the night. The amusing part is that Smith is the understudy, but has the best diction in the whole show and is awesome! Though he has only played the part for three performances over the entire tour, he embodies his character and makes you really feel for him. Not to wish ill on Thomas Hettrick (who usually plays Tunny), but Smith needs to be onstage more. He proves the theory that you should never let anyone go on for you – they may be better! I have to give some credit to his mother, too. Smith got word just before lunch that he was going on and alerted his mom, she jumped on a plane from Atlanta and made it for the rise of the curtain to see her very talented son perform. Two gold stars for mom!!
O’Farrell and Smith blend with the group and stand out at the same time. The same can be said for Jamal Shuriah, Chelsea Turbin, and Dance Captain Alison Morooney. While Shuriah, Turbin, and Morooney don’t try to outshine, they do anyway. The same goes for O’Farrell and Smith, they naturally outdo Nee, not by some action. They should not pull back; rather, Nee should commit more when performing with his “friends.” Alyssa DiPalma, Jenna Rubaii, and Kennedy Caughell, use their talents to the fullest. Though none of them has a ton of character to work with, they make the most of their time as secondary leads with their vocalizations! Trent Saunders is St. Jimmy – the villain, if you will. Saunders was another one who is a little underwhelming. While he too looks his part and sings well, he doesn’t captivate me and I became bored with the part easily.
I appreciate the efforts of the entire cast. Though the story line is pretty simplistic, the vocals (because of the well-known music and arrangements) are difficult to perform, and the choreography is undeniably challenging. The overall feeling of the show is that unless it has a great cast, I’m not positive I would care…I will never go out of my way to see a community theatre production of this show, but this cast is definitely worth your while. I think you may be seeing some future stars here!
Overall Show: B+, I’m not sure that I love the book, but this cast and the music sell it!
Venue: A-, The Hippodrome is a beautifully restored treasure. Make sure to check other city events when booking tickets, i.e. Ravens, Orioles, 1st Mariner and Convention Center events. Also, the neighborhood is not the best and you should always walk in groups, but that goes for most of Baltimore! If you have circulation, joint issues, or are taller, try to book an aisle seat, because of the age of the theatre, the chairs are a bit cramped. There is street parking and plenty garages with event pricing. Restaurants are also close by and there is a cafe inside.
Choreography: A+, it’s not only the steps, it’s the execution and this cast delivers!
Alex Nee, B-, needs more oomph throughout, good vocals.
Casey O’Farrell, A+, excellent stage presence and quality of vocals.
Dustin Harris Smith, A+, fantastic diction and stage presence.
Trent Saunders, B-, good voice, not great diction, acting was a little contrived.
Alyssa DiPalma, A-, great voice, not clear diction, disconnect between her character and Johnny.
Jenna Rubaii, A, fantastic ariel work, while singing, very strong voice. blended into ensemble well, too.
Kennedy Caughell, A+, very good voice, strong character even when pantomiming.