Review: 'American Idiot' at Clowes Hall

April 3, 2013
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With "American Idiot" in town for only a week, I thought I'd share some of my thoughts on the show here before a full column in the upcoming IBJ.

For the record, I approached the show's national tour fairly ignorant about Green Day’s music. I did hear some songs I recognized (“Wake Me Up When September Ends,” “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”) but, honestly, if you had asked me beforehand to name two of the band’s songs, I couldn’t have done it. 

My ignorance, though, only shows that, for those who don’t mind non-traditional core characters, lyrics laden with f-bombs, high-volume musical intensity, and a big pile of youth angst, “American Idiot” isn’t just for its characters’ demographic group.

Plot? There isn’t much. Johnny and his disillusioned buddies want out of suburbia. One’s escape plan ends with the pregnancy of his girlfriend. Another tries to find meaning in military service. Johnny hits the big city, finding both love and drugs, with the latter pushing the former away. 

While it has “define a generation” links to “Hair,” the Broadway show that “American Idiot” most recalls is “Movin’ Out.” That, too, focused on a group of friends who take different paths into the world. More to the point, each show creates its own distinct movement vocabulary. Of course, the “Idiot” moves look nothing like “Movin’ Out.” Its choreographic palette consists largely of a kind of controlled thrashing. Company members rush from the wings to hurl themselves into songs. They leap into beds, flip through windows, and spin each other on scaffolding with precision but without seeming over-rehearsed. When they are almost-but-not-too in-sync, the dancers startlingly highlight the show's themes of connectiveness/disconnectiveness. 

I loved the aggression of the show. It has a “this is what we are” confidence that leads to perhaps a few too many middle-finger raises and crotch grabs, but also seems to know that its characters are speaking their own youthful truth—which may or may not be your more experienced truth.

As with a good production of “Hair,” you don’t have to buy into the characters’ world view in order to have a satisfying experience.

Read more in the April 8 IBJ or, after April 6, at 

Your thoughts?

  • Ok
    My wife and I saw the show last night. It was what I would call different. There was an elderly lady near us who got up and left not more than 2 minutes into the graphic language at the beginning. My review is pretty simple, this was a green day concert with a play and dancing (some really interesting sequences) running in the background. Don't go to the show expecting a traditional musical!
  • why publish april 8
    What's the point of publishing a review in the April 8th/April 6th IBJ? The show's last day is the 7th... Shouldn't IBJ be interested in publishing reviews quickly enough online so that affect whether or not your audience attends the show? At least you have this blog...
  • Terrible - worst broadway show seen
    We never have left a broadway show as season ticket holders and supporters of the arts, but this was a first. I would have left in 10 minutes but wanted to see if a Plot developed but apparently it did not and I am glad we left after 30 minutes. As a gen Xer by birthdate, God help us all if this is our youth today as they definitely need help. There is no need for such language, ruining around in underwear with tattoos everywhere.
    • why?
      d. Thanks for the question. 95% of the time, what I choose to review in the print edition of IBJ is something with an Indy shelf life beyond our Monday pub date. However, I don't see the column as a kind of Consumer Reports for the arts, and when there's a more limited time-frame event that I think is worth discussing, I'll take it to the column. In this case, "American Idiot" falls into a genre--the youth-oriented musical--that tends to bypass Indianapolis. We never did see, for instance, the tours of "Hair" or "Spring Awakening." I offered both a shorter blog post and a longer review (which still got to our subscribers on Saturday with two performances left). For the big picture, though, if I stuck to just events with longer runs that would eliminate every ISO show besides Yuletide Celebration, just about every Indianapolis Opera production, most dance performances and just about all touring shows.Thanks for reading, Lou
    • American Idiot
      I saw it with my teen daughters - not realizing it was R rated. We all enjoyed it but agree that it didn't need so many f-bombs and they should/could have downplayed the sex scene, too. That aside, I was able to tell them 'This is what NOT to do with your life'. Very talented group and the music was very good. Lots of energy. Glad I went. Next up....West Side Story!

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