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American Idiot

Green Day's American Idiot at the Arts Theatre, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton Green Day's American Idiot at the Arts Theatre, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Previously seen in London only briefly in 2012 when a US touring version of the original 2010 Broadway production came to the Hammersmith Apollo as part of a UK tour, American Idiot now returns for a fuller season but in a physically much smaller and less dramatically coherent staging.

I had called the original production the single most exciting and original live rock musical I’d ever seen, but I’m afraid some of the punch has been taken out of this stage version of Green Day’s iconic 2004 album and it has been turned merely into a noisy hit parade.

This story of young Americans searching for meaning, sex and drugs was edgy, thrilling and even heartbreaking at times thanks to Steven Hoggett’s dynamic original choreography, which carefully delineated and individualised its characters. But that’s been replaced here by an impressionistic blur that has lots of frenetic flashing lights (courtesy of Tim Deiling) but not enough heart.

Though there’s an attempt to contextualise it in a post-9/11 world, with pre-show video of the attack on the Twin Towers, there are larger echoes of it being like a American version of Trainspotting, with a grimy toilet centre stage and characters regular shooting up around it.

But there’s no faulting the young, sexy cast of Racky Plews’s production, many doing double duty on guitar, who give Green Day’s alternately loud and gorgeous melodies full power. By all means see it to hear these songs sung live with such passion, with particularly strong contributions from Aaron Sidwell, Alexis Gerred and Llandyll Gove, but the show doesn’t detonate the hand grenade that looks like a splintering heart of its logo with enough dramatic force.

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Loud but tame version of the live stage musical made out of Green Day's 2004 album