Theatre Review: American Idiot – Can you hear the sound of hysteria?

Debuting on Broadway in 2010, American Idiot (based on the Green Day album of the same name that defined a generation) has become a beloved production that went on to win two Tony awards. It was developed by bandmates Michael Mayer and Billie Joe Armstrong and has finally come to Melbourne’s Chapel off Chapel thanks to director Scott Bradley. The tight 90-minute runtime with a small intermission of 20 minutes, the splashy outfits, brilliant performances and show-stopping musical numbers will satisfy your inner pop-punk.

The show revolves around six main characters. Johnny (Mat Dywer), Tunny (John Mondelo) and Will (Ronald MacKinnon) all agree to get out of the suburbs and try to make it in the big city. Will’s girlfriend Heather becomes pregnant, which stops him from moving with his friends, and they play out a life of regret and longing as they both feel trapped in town. Tunny enlists in the army and is sent off to war where he suffers and struggles to put his life back together. Johnny makes it to the city and, after losing Tunny to enlistment, finds a girlfriend in Whatsername (Romy Mcilroy) and they lose each other in a lifestyle fuelled by drugs, sex and alcohol. All of these characters are set against the background of the George W. Bush presidency and war in Iraq that profoundly affects each of the characters.

Mondelo is the standout performance here, his soaring vocal performances and redemption arc after coming back injured being the highlight of the show. This is a huge cast of 17 that fills out the show, with backing from a talented band led by musical director Tahra Cannon who are a great compliment to the story. Although, the dialogue should probably come with a trigger-warning in 2023 (the queer community in particular may take offence to some of the language from this time period).

The energy pulsating from the stage with each musical number is infectious – it captures the era perfectly and allows the audience to reflect on the dawn of media saturation with the 24-hour news cycle in an uncertain and dangerous world. The setting is an urban concrete jungle vibe with graffiti in the background that is accentuated by spotlights, with design and placement from lighting head Jason Bovaird capturing the essence of early 2000’s America. This in turn with the Statue of Liberty graffiti and flickering strobe lights make the most out of the space.

From the second this show kicks off, it’s a flurry of nostalgic energy with standout songs like “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and “Jesus of Suburbia” delivering show-stopping performances from both the cast and the band. Green Day fans both young and old will get sheer delight out of this musical that provides an exceptionally authentic experience. If you are a fan of theatre, this show fits into the Cruel Intentions and Juliet style of loud, flashy and fantastic live shows that will have you wanting to dance in the aisles with its catchy tunes. The cast are fantastic and Mondelo in particular is a highlight of the show. American Idiot is the perfect excuse for a night out on Chapel Street that you won’t soon forget.


American Idiot is playing on Chapel on Chapel until March 26.