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Short and Sweet – An Audience View: American Idiot

The company of AMERICAN IDIOT (Photo by John Daughtry)
The company of AMERICAN IDIOT (Photo by John Daughtry)

Broadway In Chicago is happy to introduce “Short & Sweet,” a quick view of our shows courtesy of Diana Martinez, who will give you the lowdown on Broadway In Chicago productions from the perspective of an audience member. Diana has more than 25 years of experience as an entertainment executive, most recently as President of The Second City. She has directed and produced over 40 live Broadway musical theatre shows and has presented more than 350 world-class Broadway national tours, dance, headline comedians and concert. We hope you enjoy this quick insight into our shows, and since this is all about our audience, share your own thoughts with us in the comments below.

In the throws of the recent tragedy in Boston, the themes of rebellion against needless violence, destruction, war and politics – rang loud and clear at the opening night performance of American Idiot at the Cadillac Palace Theatre – its relevance today is timely and poignant. I walked out loving this show.

If you are wondering, like I was…  “What’s it about?” It can be summed up best by my guest Daniel Porter of Clarendon Hills: “It’s a great modern rock concert with a gritty story about the world that generation x and y grew up in and brings back those events that still touch you today.” Mark Sauder of Clarendon Hills also commented,  “It’s a compelling story. You always hear parents saying, it’s tough to find something to do with your teen-agers that you both will like. Well, here it is.”

And it’s all wrapped up in, video junkies dream. (I’d recommend taking teens 16 an older).

The show starts off rambunctious and is choreographed in a performance art like fashion against a digital, pop culture, montage in reaction to the life choices we make personally from relationships, drugs, and sacrifice to social issues like politics, and war. The opening number, “American Idiot,” explodes out of gate with power and passion and images fly at you from 34 different monitors spattered across this amazing urban set. The production is paced perfectly and drives through “Holiday” where the pulsing music sets the tone of tension and anti- establishment for the show, with inventive staging and choreography that is aggressive, fresh and irreverent.

But, the most telling indication that this young aggressive cast had the audience completely engaged was their ability to completely mesmerize the audience in a moment through their powerfully sung ballads that had us hypnotically silent and riveted. Alex Nee’s ability to draw you in, with his beautiful voice and completely connected performance, void of any unpretentious staging or gimmicks is absolutely captivating.  The live band led by musical director Evan Newman doesn’t miss a beat and drives the show. The gorgeous ballads like “Wake me up when September ends” and “21 Guns” are what completely drew me in- some staged so perfectly simply and some ingeniously avant-garde and poetic.  The encore where the entire cast of 17 talented actors, perform on acoustic guitar and sing, is brilliant and brought the opening audience to their feet to salute this amazing performance that provides hope and unity. It’s only at the Cadillac Palace for a week, so get it together and get your tickets.