Listen: "21 Guns" performed by the cast of American Idiot

To borrow from Nathaniel over at The Film Experience, click the play button to have the soundtrack to this post.

I'll admit that I'm not keen on the idea of the Broadway-bound American Idiot musical. I have a pretty good feeling that this will flop in a spectacular, Lestat-like fashion when it opens 20 April.

For one thing, it's an adapted rock musical about young people caught up in the Iraq war (allegedly, they don't specify) and drug abuse. American Idiot was a very good album that would need lots of expansion and tweaking to be a full length musical. Which of course means it's a one act sung-through show with video screens and rock ensemble on stage.

To be less cynical for a moment, there is an ample amount of music in the show (it just happens to all have not been written for a musical*: American Idiot + B tracks and 21st Century Breakdown). I'm just thinking there was a big surge of one-acts on Broadway a few years ago and only The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee lasted much longer than a year. The convention is two acts, even if the story is better told in one. People need the intermission partly to stop them from getting lost in the non-stop assault of kind of similar sounding music. It's a service to the audience and a benefit for the cast, crew, and creators of the show.

But I digress. I still don't have hopes for the show to succeed on Broadway. The whole thing screams Off-Broadway with possible limited-run Broadway transfer after building a popular following in the area. Then again, if Spring Awakening can have a healthy run and be that out of step with modern Broadway style (from staging to subject matter to style of rock, it was out there), why not American Idiot? Except for, you know, the really bad title. We're not talking Urinetown ridiculous titles here, but it's close. More like Fat Pig or Wishful Drinking.

Though the cast recording of "21 Guns" (Tony song, obviously) hasn't raised my expectations, I do have to give credit where credit is do. This is a wonderful arrangement for a big ensemble number. Three featured soloists, smaller ensembles, and full cast all get featured in a big, exciting, bang-out-the-key-change way that makes me love theater. The ample use of strings in the beginning before full-tilt rock mode is lovely. If you ignore Billie Joe Armstrong not even being close to as strong a singer as the cast of the show, it's really well recorded. When a cast recording is released, I think John Gallagher, Jr. (Tony winner, Spring Awakening) gets to take that verse, though it might be Michael Esper or Stark Sands (there's no "[song] [character]" listing readily available yet and everything is always subject to change during previews).

Wow. This turned out a lot more negative than I intended. Please listen to the track. The presence of Green Day (wrongly credited as the main attraction) might mean radio play for a theater song, or what's become a theater song. That's rare on CHR/Top 40 stations. I approve. Then again, I see no reason why "I'm Alive" from Next to Normal or "Brooklyn in the Blood" from Brooklyn couldn't have received similar airplay.

 

*I'm aware that both albums were constructed as rock operas. That alone does not make them musicals. It's all going to be in interpretation and presentation which I can't judge yet. I hated the idea of Jersey Boys and fell in love with it when I saw it.