Scott J. Campbell (Tunny), Van Hughes (Johnny) and Jake Epstein (Will) in AMERICAN IDIOT (Photo by Doug Hamilton)

American Idiot: The Musical – 90 minutes of pure brilliance!

Rating: ★★★★ (out of 4)

Who knew Toronto would be concluding 2011 with the ultimate jam session! Green Day’s American Idiot: The Musical officially opened last night at  the Toronto Centre for the Arts, kicking off its first national tour. Presented by Dancap Productions, the multiple award winning musical, including 2 Tony’s & a Grammy, is directed by Tony Award winning Director Michael Mayer with music directed by Tony-Award winning composer Tom Kitt. The lyrics for the show are written by Green Day’s lead vocalist Billie Joe Armstrong, who also co-wrote the book with director Michael Mayer. All the songs featured in the musical are by Green Day, with some from other major Green Day albums.

The one-act, through-sung show is an adaptation of Green Day’s album by the same name, that was released in 2004. The story focuses around three young men –  Johnny (Van Hughes), Will (Jake Epstein) & Tunny (Scott J. Campbell) – who feel trapped by the various elements of life. Johnny & Tunny leave suburbia to find true meaning to their lives as “free men” while Will stays home to be with his pregnant girlfriend (Leslie McDonel). On the road, Tunny decides to be part of a greater cause and joins the army, while Johnny goes down a path of confusion, love & pain.

American Idiot is mindbogglingly amazing! From the moment the show begins till the very last second, you cannot help but jam along with the company. This was literally like watching a live Green Day performance. The one risky element to a musical that is purely a through-sung show is that the music might not work with the flow of the story. With American Idiot, that was not the case. Tom Kitt has has done a brilliant job weaving together the different songs to make one cohesive, solid & brilliant musical experience. That coupled with the brilliant direction of Michael Mayer, you have a musical that just rocks 90 minutes of your life!

The company of the show performed absolutely brilliantly. Singing constantly throughout is not easy, especially while trying to do dances and acts that add to the moment. Returning members Van Hughes & Leslie McDonel bring back their Broadway flare as Johnny & Heather respectively. Hughes’ truly brings to life the pain and conflict Johnny has throughout the show without overdoing it. Every action, every expression just makes the audience connect with Johnny. Speaking of connection, fellow Canadians and show leads Scott J. Campbell & Jake Epstein put on a fantastic performance, truly bringing to the table a rewarding theatre experience. If there was anything missing, it was the smashing of guitars! Without this wonderful cast and their commitment to theatre, American Idiot would just not be possible.

Yes, the cast is brilliant and the the production has been done really well. However, I am going to make a serious point here about the scenic & lighting design. You will be gasping at the brilliance of how amazing the set & lighting has been designed. You can go to a multi-million dollar movie set  or a grand new years eve party with an amazing light show, but nothing can compare and frankly prepare you for what American Idiot has to offer. The care & effort gone into building the set and the choreography for the lighting –  MIND HAS BEEN BLOWN. God Bless Christine Jones & Kevin Adams. They deserved the Tony Awards they won, and frankly more!

I can go on and on about this musical but you need to watch it to truly experience it. What Michael Mayer, Billie Joe Armstrong, Tom Kitt & the whole crew have done is bring to the stage something that has never been done before. You just feel the passion gone into every moment of the show, something you shall never forget.

Check back for amazing interviews with select cast of the show, including Director Michael Mayer & Music Director Tom Kitt!

American Idiot plays the Toronto Centre for the Arts until January 15th 2012. Please visit www.DancapTickets.com for ticket and show information. Don’t forget to tweet your experiences on twitter with hashtag #IdiotTO. Tickets are selling out fast, so act soon to experience this brilliant stage spectacle!

A word of caution: this musical has the use of Strobe lights, Course Adult Language, Theatrical Haze & Herbal Tobacco. It also contains Sexual Elements. The musical is suited for older audiences.