Musical impresses and depresses

By Morgan Miles, Staff Writer

Xavier’s Theatre Program performed Green Day’s American Idiot last Friday through Sunday, and I loved it.  

When I sat down, even after taking in the stage’s setup, I didn’t know what to expect. But I came out of the theater pleasantly surprised.

The musical focuses on three angsty young adults who desire to escape their hometown and feel pushed to independence-driven Western values. 

The all-too-familiar story of trying to grow up too fast ensues. Will turns to alcoholism as an unplanned pregnancy traps him and his girlfriend in his hometown. Tunny becomes enamored with military glory and enlists, only to be injured by gunfire shortly after. Johnny, the last of the trio, is left to pursue the group’s dream of independence. And he fails. Miserably. 

Tempted by drugs, Johnny fails to accomplish what he moved away from home to achieve. Compared to the laid-back introduction —  for which, of course, the cast sang “American Idiot” for — the shift from “let’s escape” to “let’s settle” is unsettling. Because in real life it can, and does, happen that quickly. Will, Tunny and Johnny seem inseparable at the start, yet a few songs into the musical shows Johnny already turning to addiction. 

The cast impressed me with their ability to use body language, facial expression and tone of voice to draw the audience in and derive shock factor when the musical’s story takes a dive into harsh reality. I wouldn’t care as much about this rag-tag gang of, well, American idiots if they hadn’t been rocking out together in the beginning without a care in the world. Or if they hadn’t been chilling on the couch as if they were really childhood buddies.

I’m sure practice after practice brought the cast together, because the charisma is undoubtedly there. 

The band is also essential to creating a deeper connection between the cast and the audience. If I closed my eyes and listened, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the live musicians and a recorded instrumental Green Day track. I think it’s important to have a good medium between the sound of the band and the sound of the actors, and the breaking of that medium only occurred a few times and not long enough to even be noticeable if you’re enthralled. 

As a lover of rock music and the “rocker” look, I couldn’t have been more thrilled by the casting choice. The cast fit my expectations both  vocally and aesthetically. Most of all, I noticed everyone got a chance to sing and showcase their talents. My favorite part was St. Jimmy, the musical’s personification of addiction.

As St. Jimmy, Connie Kavensky nailed the personification: she looked crazy and alluring, and she convinced me of her ability to “rule” over people.  Every other character also held defining qualities that only the Xavier Theatre cast could bring through their acting, or vocals or head-banging abilities.