Of course, weeks of revision have allowed for weeks of procrastination and whilst I haven't had the chance to write anything or see much theatre, I've had plenty of opportunities to ponder the theatre world and watch a lot of YouTube.
|The amazing set of American Idiot|
Fast forward five years, I've changed completely, lost the weight, started drinking, grown my hair long. I feel like I'm reliving those teenage years I never had- drinking Bacardi Breezers and dodgy perry, chilling in the park. I guess rediscovering Greenday was the next logical step.
By now I've hope you've all realised I'm not the greatest supporter of the jukebox musical- it cheapens the art form and stifles the growth of any new talent or original shows. But there are a few jukebox shows that I really enjoy on an artistic level as well as a purely entertaining level; American Idiot is one of them and I've been trying to work out why.
Firstly, lets look at American Idiot the CD- a hugely popular, millions-selling almost concept album. And there is the key phrase: concept album. Billie Joe Armstrong himself has explained that in writing the album, it was intended to tell a story and take music to another emotional and creative level, just as a musical does.
Each song is encapsulated in its own style and self contained story. We have an opening number in "American Idiot" - a rock anthem in a similar but better vein to the title song from Rent but without feeling so dated. Wake Me Up When September Ends has long had a connection with theatricality; its video is a mini epic telling of a teenage love ripped apart by war. Letterbomb was apparently always written for a girl to sing, again revealing the intention to take the album to the world of theatre.
|Ooo, its snowing! And they're all angsty|
From what I've seen American Idiot does the complete opposite to what I'd expect from a jukebox musical- it takes the music to a completely new level. What could just be a song you happen to dance to really reaches into your emotions and makes you feel that angst the characters feel. And that's what a good musical should do. The fact that an album by a rock band can do the same is a credit Greenday and their creative vision.
|Gotta say, I'm a sucker for an air guitar|
So why do I find myself liking this show but not most jukebox musicals? And an even greater mystery: why do I like Rock of Ages? Rock of Ages should be the my most hated show- taking some 80s power ballads, adding a ridiculous story and camping it up. The key is creativity. Rock of Ages knows it is being silly but it takes some songs I never knew and presents them in a completely unexpected way with some real musicality. Whilst many musical theatre purists find it puerile and something for tourists and beer louts, I think its actually been very clever by lovingly mocking the musical theatre art form in a way that only theatre fans would understand, to a tourist or beer lout this is just a fun show. American Idiot, I find, also has something to offer musical theatre fans on a separate level. Greenday fans will go for the music whilst theatre fans will go for the entire thoughtful but showy spectacle. We can all appreciate good choreography and a decent (if flawed at times) story which I think both shows have.
Whats the moral of this story? Well, if you're going to write a jukebox musical, make sure you understand the art of musical theatre even if you don't like the music. Whilst a straightforward jukebox musical will put bums on seats (and be made into a box office smash film...), it will always be known as the so and so music show rather than a musical in its own right. And can a jukebox musical ever be accepted in the theatre world? Yes, as long as it accepts the theatre world.