A guitar solo sounds, the band joins in, and the stage is set for a very talented group of performers at Beyond the Page Theatre Company of West Potomac High School. Who knew that the rebellious thrill of punk rock music and the heart and connection of musical theater could meld together so beautifully to create the incredible show that is American Idiot.
The musical is described as a stage adaption of the band Green Day’s most famous rock opera by the same name, American Idiot. It follows three characters, Johnny, Tunny, and Will, as they go through the trials and tribulations of growing up post 9/11, in an America that they find disenchanting. The show had its first run in 2009 at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre and then transferred to Broadway in 2010. The production closed after a year, and part of the run featured lead singer of Green Day Billie Joe Armstrong as the villain St. Jimmy.
The high school troupe’s production of this remarkable show is unique itself in its origin. This is their third production of the show in the past two years. The first two were fan favorites, and when the school scored a spot at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for this summer, they cooked up the idea to do one last set of performances of American Idiot to help raise money for students to be able to attend this once in a lifetime experience.
The driving force of this story is the character of Johnny, a restless 20-something who decides to ditch his small hometown for the big city in search of a life that makes more sense than the one he is living. The character is played by Julian Worth, who may be one of the most intriguing, gifted, and energetic young performers I have ever had the pleasure to watch on stage. His voice is bold, strong and clear during his full-throttle numbers, and delicate and sweet during his ballads. Not only does Worth perform his triple threat skills nearly perfectly during the show, but on top of that, he spends many of the numbers accompanying himself on guitar effortlessly. Of course, many leading men have a leading lady counterpart, and Frankie Mananzan as Whatshername plays the part splendidly. Her high belt will knock you out of your seat and she portrays her character’s turmoil in her tumultuous relationship with Johnny in a sophisticated manner wise beyond her years.
Another particularly mature and well-done performance is that of Emily Carbone as Heather. Her take on the down-trodden and abused young mother feels heartbreakingly real, and her beautiful soprano brings a tear to your eye during numbers like “Last Night on Earth.” The deeply troubled father of her child, Will, is played by the enamoring Tony Lemus. Lemus uses his through velvety smooth vocals and lovely acting choices to make you care deeply about his character. David Jarzen rounds out the trio of young men playing the character of Tunny, who decides to join the army but is wounded in battle and faces the toll war can take on you from his hospital bed. Jarzen’s vocals are impressive, he truly seems to understand the style of the punk rock music and performs it artfully, while also bringing a somber maturity to the character’s PTSD battle. Two other standouts in the show are John McFarlane as St. Jimmy and Adrianna DeLorenzo as Extraordinary Girl and Alysha. McFarlane portrays the wicked yet alluring inner demon splendidly, with stunning high notes. DeLorenzo impresses with her dance moves during “Extraordinary Girl”, and a wows with her killer voice during the show-stopping number “Too Much, Too Soon,” partnered with a lively and animated Josh Stein. Another great comedic feature was Aubrey Blount, exuding his character’s satirical, pompous nature with prowess.
There are so many talented performers featured in this production, however; the true backbone of the show is the stellar ensemble. They have mastered the punk rock themes, from every head bang to every powerful note they are fully committed during each moment of the show. The amount of energy and sparkle they bring to the stage is infectious for this 90-minute spring of a musical. My hats are also off to the pit and music direction by Cathy Manley. Manley leads the rock band with great skill, and the musicians played the intricate and dynamic music exquisitely. The choreography by Peelee Clark and Lizzy Radar is also expertly done, with every movement pairing perfectly with the epic music of the show.
The design of the show is something to be commended, it really transports you to the world of these characters. The lighting, done by Jessica Steadman and Kayla Claussen, is breathtaking. It has every color in the rainbow, strobe lights, and all sorts of other amazing effects that make you feel like you are at a crazy cool rock concert. The sound design by Victoria de Dios was perfectly precise. Balancing many body mics, the levels of a true rock band, performers that are also playing instruments on stage, and sound cues is no easy feat, and de Dios did so with confidence and grace.
The costumes and makeup by Kaylie Kopicki, Becca Roberts, and Valentina Selnick were the impeccable combination of gritty and edgy, bringing out the best in each of the unruly characters. All of these wonderful pieces are parts are brought together by the delightfully cool set and props, designed by Ella Moore, Elaina Phalen, Logan Claussen and Casey Long. It featured everything from graffiti-covered walls, a slouchy bed, an upside down American flag, and even cold hospitals gurney’s, all coming together in a simple, yet smart and effective design that houses this rocking show.
As always a show is nothing without their fearless leader, and Director Peelee Clark’s bravery with this show paid of ten-fold. Every moment, from the loudest to the quiet and tender, was marvelous. Once again he succeeds in getting professional quality theatre in a high school setting, brava to the whole company.
I highly recommend Beyond the Page Theatre Company of West Potomac High School’s production of American Idiot, as cast member Lorna Ryan said “You’d be an idiot to miss it!”
Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.
American Idiot plays through June 24th, 2017, at Beyond the Page Theatre Company of West Potomac High School atThe Kogelman Theater – 6500 Quander Road, in Alexandria, VA. Tickets are $12 and available at the door, or purchase them online.