Picture this: You’re resting from walking your dog in the parks of Bonifacio Global City. You notice the HD LED billboards and you wish you have those at home to watch Game of Thrones. And while you wait for the dear baristas to finish crafting your Jamba Juice, you hear a familiar electric guitar riff. Then the drums kick in. It’s the first few bars of Green Day’s song “American Idiot.”
The South East Asian première of Green Day’s American Idiot breaks barriers as it brings the theater experience outside of a regular theater. The show transforms the BGC High Street Amphitheater to a humongous theater-slash-concert stage where Filipino talent and technology converge to bring entertainment and the arts to the public. Personally, I haven’t seen anything like the American Idiot stage. When I first arrived at the venue, I was immediately amazed at the scale of this production—the first of its kind in the Philippines. Two super high-definition billboards tower on both sides of the stage. LED screens shaped like lightning skyscrapers on center stage serve as dynamic backdrop. Three-level scaffolding on both sides of the stage becomes the cast’s playground, strategically placed to give height and depth to the biggest outdoor theater stage I’ve ever seen. No kidding! Having witnessed it firsthand, it’s really really impressive.
Set in a chaotic media-obsessed world, American Idiot is the coming-of-age story of three friends Johnny, Will and Tunny. The three friends experience the harsh realities of each of their chosen paths. Their lives run in parallel like three different universes of the same story. All three decide to leave their boring suburban lives and move to the city. Will unwillingly opts to stay. Tunny joins the military while Johnny, though he is in the city, remains lost and to cope, gives in to drugs.
Theatre first-timer Jason Fernandez pitch-perfectly plays the lead role of Johnny. He captures the attitude and the angst of a troubled teenager finding himself and his purpose. The speaking parts could still be a bit more natural but other than that, he is perfect for the role. He is Johnny. Jason’s energy didn’t seem to die down. He sustained this quirky punky attitude all through out. I especially love him in that scene in “Jesus of Suburbia” where he poses with his arms stretched out as if he was on a cross but looks like a shrug. (It’s hard to describe. Hahaha.) Goosies! This could be just the beginning of a whole new career in theatre.
Also a first-timer in theatre, Chicosci frontman Miggy Chavez gives a memorable performance of Will. He was noticeably (and understandably) nervous for his first how; he took time to warm up to the stage and the audience. But as the show went on, he found his footing. On “Give Me Novacaine” you could feel his pain of losing the chance at a new life in the city and his helplessness at having no choice in the situation. He adeptly told Will’s story of hope, regret and then hope again even more through the music.
Among the main cast, Nel Gomez who plays Tunny is the most seasoned thespian. Whenever he is on stage, I can’t take my eyes off him. When Tunny happily leaves town for a new life, you’re excited for him. When he is befallen by misfortune on the battlefield, you feel his excruciating pain. You just can’t help but root for Tunny. It’s in the show’s more tender and dramatic moments where his theater mastery is at its brightest. His voice shines as he gets disillusioned with life and seduced into the military life in “Are We The Waiting,” and he also impresses with his dancing (<3) in fever dream “Extraordinary Girl.”
The three lead actors had great chemistry together. Incidentally, one of the highlights of the show for me is when we see the three, whose lives have now turned for worse, juxtaposed in “Wake Me Up When September Ends.” Johnny, Will, and Tunny, with guitars in hand, sing about their longing for reprieve from their battle-worn lives (literally in Tunny’s case), and hopefulness for a better future. This is one of Green Day’s most popular songs, and the audience was singing along. But more importantly, we commiserated with the characters. We know how bad things have gotten for them, and we can’t help but look back to moments in our lives where we have felt likewise. The desperation, the call for help, all felt real for us, for me.
One that I was most stoked to see on the stage is Wolfgang frontman and Filipino rock legend Basti Artadi as Johnny’s alter ego, St. Jimmy. It was the first time I’m seeing him in this setting, but, I must say, his stage presence is powerful as ever. I was definitely not disappointed. When he first emerged on top of the scaffolding in “St. Jimmy,” I was stunned for a good few seconds. But it was his absolutely rock-tastic turn in “Know Your Enemy” that made me want to stand up and cheer. That has to be another one of my favorite numbers in the musical. You just can’t help but follow Basti’s every move on stage, even with everything else going on around him. That’s how magnetic his presence and performance as St. Jimmy was.
The leads turned in excellent grounded performances, and the other cast members gave the same commitment and energy. Yanah Laurel as Johnny’s pseudonymous girlfriend Whatsername is a powerhouse vocalist. West End alums marking their return to Philippine theatre, Ela Lisondra (Extraordinary Girl) and Ariel Reonal (Favorite Son), brought their world-class theatre experience and, at the same time, channeled their inner rockstars to bring outstanding Broadway-worthy performances.
One of the cast that stood out most to me is one of the “rock guys” of the group, Norby David. Just in the first few minutes of the show, he already played a rebellious youth, a 7-Eleven employee, and a bus driver, all done with the right balance of punk-rock attitude and theatrical panache. And he continued to bring his infectious energy all through out the show. I think he’ll be one to watch in the theatre scene.
Another one of my favorite sequences on the show is “Favorite Son” followed by “Are We The Waiting.” It’s one of my fave numbers in the show mainly because, as an audience, I was able to clearly understand Tunny’s internal struggle, and more importantly, his impulsive decision to join the army in that short span of two completely opposing songs.
More than a technical, acting, and singing marvel, American Idiot is a feat in storytelling. The themes of drugs, sex, and teenage pregnancy were not shoved in the audience’s faces but were instead presented artistically (through subtle but powerful symbolism) and not just at face value. It might get too confusing at times with all the lights, choreography, and loud music, but the story stayed the course. Moreover, the characters all felt familiar, making you empathize with their plights right from the beginning.
Before you know it, you’ve finished the whole show. You’ve already turned your cup over an hour and a half ago but you stayed. You find yourself mesmerized and entertained, with Green Day songs now stuck in your head on loop. When you get home, you buy a ticket for the next show. Accidental Theater Experience. That’s the kind of experience and so much more from Globe and 9 Works Theatrical’s staging of Green Day’s American Idiot.
Green Day’s American Idiot is continuing on its 2nd weekend till July 10, 2016 at the Globe Iconic Store in Bonifacio High Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.
- Purchase your tickets right now via TicketWorld online or via their hotline at 891-9999.
- Globe Platinum members get tickets for free.
- Purchase 4,000 pesos worth around BGC using your Mastercard and get tickets for free.
- Every night, Globe and 9WT raffle off 20 or so pairs of tickets. Register by 5:45 p.m. and winners will be drawn at 6:15 p.m.
- Come early and get the best seats at the BGC Amphitheater for free!
Check out more details about the show at the Globe American Idiot official page.