Green Day’s 2010 Tony Award-nominated rock musical “American Idiot,” based on the 2004 Grammy-winning album of the same name with additional tunes from the 2009 Grammy-winning album “21st Century Breakdown,” receives a wonderfully compelling and vigorous presentation courtesy of Dare to Defy Productions at the Victoria Theatre.
Under the terrifically fluid, character-specific direction of Angie Thacker and bolstered by expressively exuberant and physical choreography by Kimberly Isaacs, “American Idiot” certainly retains its post-9/11 sociopolitical sting. However, there is much more within the soul-searching journeys of slacker buddies Johnny, Tunny and Will fueling this version, one of the strongest, seamless and emotionally-driven I’ve seen since the Broadway original. For instance, Johnny (a.k.a. Jesus of Suburbia) is still a disillusioned man-child venturing down a dark path of drug abuse, but he’s also in search of being loved no matter the risk. In the same regard, Tunny is attracted to the idea of joining the military, but is very wary underneath even when he’s in basic training. Will spends most of his time reacting rather than participating (an underwritten misstep in an otherwise sturdy collaboration between Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong and co-librettist Michael Mayer), but his perspective entices nonetheless as his woeful suburban existence with his pregnant girlfriend Heather suffocates and perplexes him. Thanks to Thacker’s desire to go beyond the surface, the fundamental truth that choices have consequences is not lost here by any means. And the vocally strong, communicative ensemble vividly interprets Isaacs’ movement as they drive and push this trio along. With passion and intensity, they are absolutely fascinating extensions of the characters.
Layne Roate (Johnny), Bobby Mitchum (Tunny) and Zach Erhardt (Will) are remarkably paired. In fact, Roate and Erhardt, Dare to Defy newcomers, are very talented guitarists. The tall, lanky and animated Roate fittingly reveals Johnny’s anger and frustration, but greatly captivates in terms of vulnerability. His stellar rendition of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” complete with stage pictures recalling “Say Anything” and “West Side Story,” is filled with haunting melancholy, and I also found his plaintive rendition of “Whatsername” beautifully mysterious. Mitchum’s sensitivity propels Tunny’s distressing yet inspirational arc accented by the fiery presence of Maddie Vaughn as the Extraordinary Girl who changes Tunny’s outlook. The contemplative, striking Erhardt leads a pensive “Give Me Novacaine” and turns Will’s anthem “Nobody Likes You” into a powerful epiphany.
Additionally, the supremely fierce Lisa Glover is a highly energetic knockout as the sexual, rebellious Whatsername, Johnny’s love. Glover’s defiant scream in the pulsating “Letterbomb,” her brief appearance in “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” and her gentle pleading in “21 Guns” (notably shared with Vaughn and a very effective Natalie Sanders as Heather) are highlights. The marvelously menacing Thomas Cole Schreier delivers a breakthrough portrayal of St. Jimmy, the personification of Johnny’s drug addiction, with fantastic renditions of “St. Jimmy” and “Know Your Enemy” containing vocal flourishes that elevate both numbers. The rip-roaring ensemble includes A.J. Breslin (notable in “Holiday”), Aaron Brewer (notable in “Rock and Roll Girlfriend”), Naman Clark, Samantha Creech, Brent Hoggatt (notable in “East 12th St.”), Mackensie King, Zach King, Abby Land, Jeffrey Mack, Skyler McNeely, Laura Moore (notable in “Too Much Too Soon”), Brett Norgaard (notable in “Favorite Son”), Desmond Thomas, Andre Tomlinson, Jenna Valyn, and Ella Wylie.
Thacker’s first-rate artistic team includes scenic designer Ray Zupp (creating a gritty world of dismantling and decay with great use of scaffolding), superbly evocative lighting designer Matthew Benjamin (in a rare departure from his duties at Wright State University), and musical director Lorri Topping who assembles a firmly balanced seven-piece orchestra that doesn’t overpower the actors. There were multiple sound hindrances on opening night, but it didn’t deter momentum.
In the words of Whatsername, there is nothing left to analyze. Go see this show.
“American Idiot” concludes today at 2 and 8 p.m. at the Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St., Dayton. Act One: 45 minutes; Act Two: 50 minutes. Tickets are $26.50-$51.50. For tickets or more information, call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit www.ticketcenterstage.com. Patrons are advised the show contains adult themes.