Review: Green Day’s AMERICAN IDIOT (Pannic Productions)

Cast American Idiot1

Raise your heart rate and your middle finger with the Queensland community theatre premiere of Green Day’s AMERICAN IDIOT by Pannic Productions.

Including the full track list from the 2004 album as well as a few hits from 21st Century Breakdown and Nimrod, AMERICAN IDIOT tells a familiar tale – disenchanted youth, big dreams that look different up close, and the messy, lonely business of navigating from adolescence to adulthood.

StJimmy_Thomas Armstrong Robley & Johnny_Scott Johnson
Thomas Armstrong Robley as St Jimmy (L) and Scott Edward Johnson as Johnny (R)

Self-proclaimed ‘Jesus of Suburbia’ Johnny (Scott Edward Johnson), along with his best mates Will (Isaac Brown) and Tunny (Adam Goodall), are disillusioned with suburbia and determined to strike out on their own. While Will remains in their hometown with pregnant girlfriend Heather (Amanda Harris), stuck to his couch, Tunny finds purpose by enlisting in the military and Johnny begins a passionate love affair in the big city with a mysterious woman (Kaitlyn Maxwell) and hard drugs, struggling with his alter ego St Jimmy (Thomas Armstrong Robley). All return home in the end, each changed and injured in their own ways. The musical is a commentary on youth, war, culture, and disaffection that resonates just as much, albeit in different ways, as when it was first performed in 2010.

Directed by Andrew Haden, Pannic Productions’ American Idiot opens with a bang, and maintains the high energy throughout with crisp choreography and blistering harmonies. With complex, multi-level sets (Andrew Haden & Todd Jackson) and impressive costuming (Ashleigh Creeks), lighting (Andrew Haden & Bailey McIntosh) and sound (James Dosser), it’s easy to forget that this is community theatre as the cast perform Nikki Blade’s energetic, highly physical choreography with precision, creating some real “wow!” moments on stage, and belt out the recognisable hit songs with powerful voices. The cast are accompanied onstage, partially visible among the scaffolding, by Brisbane band Empyre. Some minor microphone issues did not detract from the overall impact of this work as it exploded onto the Gardens Theatre stage for opening night.

Whatsername & Johnny_Kaitlyn Maxwell & Scott Johnson
Kaitlyn Maxwell as Whatsername (L) and Scott Edward Johnson as Johnny (R)

Kaitlyn Maxwell had a compelling stage presence and powerful vocals as Whatsername, and Thomas Armstrong Robley was wild-eyed and dangerous as St Jimmy. Isaac Brown and Adam Goodall brought a sense of authentic emotion to the roles of Will and Tunny, respectively, complemented by strong performances from Amanda Harris as Heather and Georgia Murray as Extraordinary Girl.

Johnny_Scott Johnson1
Scott Edward Johnson as Johnny

Scott Edward Johnson embodied the insecurity and manic excitability, the searching and struggling of Johnny, skilfully balancing the conflicting and intense emotions in his characterisation. His onstage chemistry with St Jimmy was similarly push-pull, wonderfully combative and thrilling to watch.
The production is a 90 minute adrenaline shot, interspersed with a few poignant ballads like Wake Me Up When September Ends and Whatsername. Pannic Productions present a polished, professional show filled with emotion – an absolute credit to all cast and crew.

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