Don't Wanna Be An American Idiot...

Though I am decidedly closer to thirty than twenty, the arrival of my 28th birthday didn't really have me feeling old until tonight, when Justin and I went to see the theatrical version of American Idiot, the seminal 2004 album by Green Day. We both had fond memories of the album, which was released when I was a freshman in college, nearly ten years ago -- a frightening prospect unto itself.

American Idiot was a powerful expression of adolescent angst, set against the backdrop of Bush-era America, with palpable political overtones. At the time, it felt like an instant classic, and its rock opera structure made it seem almost like a foregone conclusion that it would eventually make it to the stage. Given my love for musical theater, I decided to keep my eye out for it, but in the meantime, I listened to "Wake Me Up When September Ends" so many times on my brand-new iPod that it was firmly lodged in my 25 Most Played Songs playlist for years to come.

The long-awaited stage version did not come to fruition until 2010, and it wasn't until last year that it finally made it to Chicago on tour. Out of nostalgia, I tried my best to obtain tickets, but I never managed to find them at a discounted rate, and the base price was even higher than most ticket prices for shows that come through my fair city, so I eventually gave up.

Last month, however, the Broadway in Chicago Facebook page alerted me to the fact that not only was American Idiot coming back through town, there was a half-price spring ticket sale in effect for all Broadway in Chicago shows. With all the ridiculous Ticketmaster fees, the tickets were still expensive, but they were at least in the realm of affordability, so I jumped at them.

We braved a horrific rain storm to be at the theater for the show tonight, and it appeared that our fellow theater patrons were not as motivated, as there were vast tracts of empty seats surrounding us. Those who had defied the elements instantly sent us down the path of feeling old, as we seemed to surpass them in years by a factor of a decade at least.

As the show started, our senses were affronted by a barrage of overly loud music and flashing strobe lights that would have been enough to induce a seizure even in the non-epileptic. The performers emerged clad in a wardrobe that seemed to consist largely of items that could have been found at Hot Topic, a store that I have not deigned to enter in close to a decade, and even then it was only to buy a gift. Given my initial reaction to the performance, I couldn't help but wonder if my next thought would be, "Damn kids! Get off my lawn!"

Throughout the rest of the show one-act show (Whose bright idea was that anyway? You have to give people the opportunity to use the bathroom!) I found myself distracted by the choreographer's unsuccessful attempt to create a method of dance that communicates apathy. In my mind, dance inherently carries an emotional valance, and to ask people to dance like they don't care makes them look like they just can't dance. With their jerky, flailing, uncoordinated movements, I could have probably jumped up onto stage and fit right in.

Finally, I found myself lacking sympathy for the characters. I wanted them to stop self-sabotaging with drugs and alcohol, stop whining, and pull their lives together. Frustratingly, the only character who seemed to make any progress on that front got his leg blown off in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Yes, the music was good, and the cast did an adequate job in singing it, but in all honesty, I would have been happier if I had stayed dry at home and listened to Billie Joe Armstrong sing the album himself on iTunes. Then I could have reflected in peace on what it was like to be young, without being painfully reminded of the fact that I am turning into an old curmudgeon.

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