Non-equity tours have an admittedly sour reputation of being the poor, red headed younger sibling of equity tours. I saw the first non-equity tour of Rent in 2002 and it was a disaster, to say the least. With that in mind, one can assume my expectations were low for the non-equity tour of American Idiot. The equity tour had been somewhat of a let down last year after the Boston Opera House swallowed up what little energy the half-recycled touring cast had. So, while expectations were low, my friends and I happily headed to Hartford yesterday to see the show we loved that we hasn’t seen in over a year. I picked up two copies of Rolling Stone so we could read about our favorite rockstar on the way up.
We got Hartford and were thoroughly saddened when the city lacked people and open restaurants. I believe there were a whopping sum of two open restaurants open across Bushnell Park from the theatre. The funny thing was that every Hartford native we came across apologized for their city and its lack of, well, everything. After (way too much) searching we eventually found a lovely little restaurant called Salute and parked ourselves at the bar. Minutes later a sea of suits (WASPS) started filing in. Apparently a new Connecticut Supreme Court justice named Andrew had just been sworn in and we were lunching at the site of his celebratory party. Soon after the suits became overwhelming we paid and went back to meet our friend who’d overslept and missed our bus (no worries, he caught the next one). We relaxed and charged our phones as we waited for the doors to the Bushnell Theater opened.
The theatre was large but not as big as the Boston Opera House. We had awesome seats, Row D, though they were still 8 or so rows back, but they were closer than we’d had in Boston. But finally it was fuck time.
Because the proscenium wasn’t nearly as high as at the St. James, they waited longer before they started to raise the curtain amidst the sound bites. The set was shorter but I knew that was coming. I was excited to see an entirely fresh, new cast perform material that I knew like the back of my hand.
One third of the way through (the song) American Idiot my friend leaned over and gave me a thumbs up. I knew he was referring to Alex Nee as Johnny. We’d heard great things about him from a reliable source and we were both pleased he’d been right. He had an edgy, rock voice but with a lovely vibrator that wasn’t overkill. He added subtle nuances to the character here and there (such as hiding his head under a blanket when Know Your Enemy started) that were incredibly effective. You could really feel that he’d hit rock bottom before Wake Me Up When September Ends.
Casey O’Farrell was great too as Will. His look was a little off for me at first – for some reason – but his voice was really pretty and his acting was solid.
Alyssa DiPalma was GREAT as Whatshername. Her costumes were completely different (and awesome!). Her voice was gorgeous and powerful. And her take on the character was slightly more sympathetic because her look wasn’t as “hard” as previous actresses I’d seen. Letterbomb rocked.
Thomas Hettrick was good as Tunny. His acting was spot on, but his voice alternated between sounding like a member of a boy band and one that was way too naisily (at certain moments he was turning his vowels like it was his job).
There there’s Trent Saunders as St. Jimmy. He was an entirely new (and awesome) look and sound for the character, but his stage presence was a little low. He wasn’t as threatening as other actors have played him in the past. That said: I really enjoyed his performance. Jenna Rubaii sounded great as the Extraordinary Girl, and she did what little she could do in the track, and Kennedy Caughell was an entertaining and fresh take on Heather.
The ensemble held the company together fantastically. Some looked scarily identical to their original counterparts on Broadway. Carson Higgins was excellent as the Representative of Jingletown (and he looked a crazy amount like Theo Stockman). Aurie Ceylon killed the Too Much Too Soon solo. And Turner Rouse Jr. looked a stupid amount like Gerard Canonico.
We left the theatre elated and satisfied. This cast really brought it, despite the huge house and the much older crowd (who really just… didn’t get it). We headed over to the restaurant next to the bus terminal which would now be open. My friend put his Playbill on the bar and the older couple next to us asked if we’d seen the show and if we liked it, which we said we did. After our enthusiastic response, they told us they were Alyssa DiPalma’s parents, which prompted our genuine praise for their daughter’s performance. Shortly after Ms. DiPalma herself walked in. We minded our own business, chatting amongst ourselves. Before we left we chatted with them and shot a quick photo with DiPalma herself.
I love how they’ve done her hair. I’m tempted to almost do a more muted version of it on myself. (Yes… no?) We caught a Greyhound home at 5 and pulled into Port Authority at 7:30.
It was a good day.