Theatre review: "American Idiot" showcases all of Shadowbox's strengths

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

In Green Day’s “American Idiot,” punk rock and the long tradition of the concept album collided with Broadway. Shadowbox Live gathers the pieces, splashes them onto its Brewery District stage, and presents to Central Ohio a perfect synthesis of popular culture and its irreverent aesthetic. Shadowbox lives for such opportunities and makes the most of this one.

The musical itself, with lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong and book by Armstrong and Michael Mayer, shares its male-oriented fantasy notions of sex, drugs, battlefield gore and glory, and rock ’n’ roll with several of its rock-opera forebears. Plot-wise, it rarely rises above cliché and retrogressively relegates several of its female characters to namelessness. But under Stev Guyer’s direction, Shadowbox stages an excellent “Idiot” that showcases all of the company’s strengths.

JT Walker III lends his innate vulnerability to main character Johnny’s swagger, ending up as more sympathetic than he might deserve. After all, he treats Whatshername (Nikki Fagin) pretty shabbily. Brandon Anderson gives the hesitant syncopations of “Are We the Waiting” extra weight as Tunney, deciding to enlist in the military. Jamie Barrow projects somewhat more consciousness than does his character Will, making his neglect of Anita McFarren’s Heather and their child as much incongruous as unforgivable. Andy Ankrom exudes menace as drug dealer and probable figment of Johnny’s imagination, St. Jimmy. Stacie Boord adds dignity to Extraordinary Girl, Tunney’s nurse and savior.

Solid musicianship comes from the five-person band: guitarists Matthew Hahn and Brent Lambert, bassist Jeff “Buzz” Crisafulli, drummer Brandon “Dreds” Smith, and especially keyboardist Kevin Patrick Sweeney. The corresponding visual coherence provided by Katy Psenicka’s energetic choreography helps hold the sometimes-flimsy story together.

You may or may not have the time of your life, but you don’t want to be an American Idiot and miss the sound of Shadowbox hysteria.

Photo by Will Shively

Shadowbox Live

503 S. Front St., Brewery District

Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays through April 26