It’s amazing how long it takes us to change our view of something once it’s ingrained. Most people still think of New York City as dangerous, Starbucks coffee as bitter, Robin Williams as funny, and Broadway music as the exclusive domain of such songsmiths as Rodgers and Hammerstein and Andrew Lloyd Webber. That last one may change for good starting next week, when the musical American Idiot, based on Green Day’s 2004 punk-pop album of the same name, opens at the St. James Theater. The prevailing opinion was summed up fairly well by Bill Maher, who, when he interviewed Green Day’s front man, Billie Joe Armstrong, on his show last week, said, “[when I think] musical I think of Ethel Merman, Tommy Tune, Mr. Stephen Sondheim—I don’t think of Sid Vicious.”
American Idiot is neither an old-timey toe-tapper nor a radical reinvention of the musical form. It is an intense, 90-minute rock opera, powered by impassioned, creative renditions of Green Day’s songs and by the mesmerizing, evocative choreography of Steven Hoggett. As the show’s star, John Gallagher Jr., says, “It just goes and goes and goes until it can’t go any further.