Some people travel for movie premieres for actors they love, others travel for concerts, and other people travel for theatre and for that last offense I am guilty as charged. When I first heard American Idiot was going on tour, I knew I wanted to see it. Unfortunately the closest the tour was coming to New York was Boston (no DC or Philly?!) so Matt and I groaned, debated possibly bussing it up to Toronto instead and resigned to the fact that it was easiest to head up to Boston, rather than any other stop on their tour schedule.
Two weeks ago we booked seats on the 7am AMTRAK train to Boston and we concluded today that it was a much better idea two weeks ago rather than when we had to show up to Penn Station at 6:15am on a Sunday. But we made it and after coffee and bagels, we boarded the train and took the four hour ride up north.
The train was definitely a good idea. The extra space allowed for maximum sleeping. The last time I was in Boston, I believe, was in September 2007 to see the out-of-town try-out of High Fidelity (which was, unfortunately, better than what was seen onstage in New York). We got to South Station, found our way quite easily to the Boston Opera House, picked up tickets and then went to find food.
I think Boston still follows what are called ‘Blue Laws’ which means nothing is open before noon. This was unfortunate because we were hungry and it was before noon. The restaurant next to the Boston Opera House seemed to be the only one open for several blocks in either direction so we split a margarita pizza and chicken fingers (like the adults we are) before we heading next door for the show. The theatre was beautiful, and enormous. We were sitting in row G and it felt like sitting in Row N at the St. James.
Totally reminiscent of the lobby at the St. James, right? Luckily we had no understudies and the house was packed (literally sold out). And there were color Playbills! I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen a color playbill at American Idiot.
And now my thoughts on the show…
Van Hughes was still great as Johnny. He’s changed a lot of his performance since the Broadway production, but in good ways. I wasn’t a fan of his line delivery in the first few scenes but he looks great, moves the most freely of any of the cast, sounds great, and his guitar playing has improved too.
I was curious to see how Jake Epstein was going to be since he was technically a ‘name’ (from Degrassi) in the show (and maybe also because he was incredibly good looking too). I am happy to say that he acted the role with emotional and conviction, and for the most part, he sounded fantastic. His “Give Me Novocaine” was gripping. The only part of his vocal performance that needs work was “Nobody Likes You” during the last song cycle. He sounded too much like a member of a boy band. After Michael Esper, Jake probably slides in at my second favorite performer to play “Will.”
The weak link was Scott J. Campbell as Tunny. I’d been reading his Twitter account since rehearsals started and he seemed so nice, and for some weird reason I’d hoped he’d be good. Now his acting was spot on – he encompassed the rule of Tunny fully. But from the minute he opened his mouth to sing, I knew it wasn’t going to be good… and it wasn’t. He did a good job holding his high note at the end of Boulevard of Broken Dreams, though I’d guess he was close to just yelling it rather than supporting his with his breath.
Gabrielle McClinton was really great at Whatshername. I loved her voice, save for the way she sounded a little too “soul” during parts of Letterbomb. She had a great look, a great voice, and was the free spirit that I imagine Whatshername to have. A side note: she has a new costume during “Rebel” and it’s glittery, and awesome.
Leslie McDonel was lovely as Heather. I saw her once in the role on Broadway and she was much better this time. She has a really beautiful voice and her acting perfect for Heather. She probably has the best voice of any “Heather” I’ve seen since Mary Faber.
Nicci Claspell, as the Extraordinary Girls, looks a LOT like Libby Winters from afar but fortunately is a bit more vocally suited for the role. She faltered a bit on the high note that gets held near the end of Extraordinary Girl, but other than that she sounded solid.
I hate to admit it, but I didn’t enjoy Joshua Kobak as St. Jimmy. I saw him once in the role on Broadway and thought he was good, but right now he’s just creepy in the role and not in a good way. His voice was best showcased during “Know Your Enemy,” where he owned the high note in the middle.
Larkin Bogan is in the ensemble and looks like a tiny, young Billie Joe Armstrong. It’s uncanny. He also sang and played the first verse of “Good Riddance,” so that just drove the Billie Joe resemblance home more. Talia Aaron and Matt DeAngelis, who sang the solos in Too Much Too Soon, both had fantastic voices and personalities during this song. Talia skipped out a bit on the high note that Alysha Umphress used to sing but she was well-sung regardless. I’m still confused as to why they cast Vince Oddo as the Favorite Son as well when they have Okiriete Onaodowan in the cast.
Here are a couple of other observations I made during the show:
- Tunny and Will acknowledge the audience when they point at each other in Jesus of Suburbia (shitbag! cocksucker!). It was really awkward because although letters and monologues are said towards the audience, I never really got the impression that the cast was playing to an audience.
- There’s no platform that rises for numbers like Last Night on Earth and Letterbomb, and to say the least, I missed it.
- Leslie (Heather) and her female counterpart wear basically the same costume during Too Much Too Soon, which I hadn’t noticed in the Broadway production.
- Instead of wearing a “I Hella ❤ Oakland” t-shirt, Leslie wore a “Patriots” t-shirts. I’m assuming they’re kind of changing the t-shirts depending on which region they’re in. Who knows though.
- The bit of action before “Extraordinary Girl” in which she kisses Tunny, etc. was shortened and felt incredibly rushed.
- There were a few tiny bits of new choreography, but nothing huge that’d you notice if you hadn’t seen it multiple times on Broadway.
- The changes that were made to the final monologue wasn’t as odd as I thought it would be and it actually made it feel shorter but I think it would’ve been a better choice to only have the three main characters say the lines, not any of the ensemble.
Technical thoughts: The stage is just about as wide as it was on Broadway but it’s an entire store shorter and it kind of doesn’t give you feeling of smallness and being lost, like the huge set on Broadway did. Because of the lack of the third level, the band is kind of crammed onstage.
We made sure to get a picture with this awesome sign explaining that strobe lights were going to be used in the show… then we headed back to South Station and caught the 3:30pm Greyhound back to Port Authority where we arrived half an hour early.
Overall, it was a good day.