'AMERICAN IDIOT' CONTINUES TO ENERGIZE AND IS THE PERFECT MUSICAL TO WELCOME BACK SOUTH BAY THEATRE


9/11 GEN Z ARE CALLING OUT TO IDIOT AMERICA, GREEN DAY'S ROCK OPERA

GETS A FRESH LOOK TO END THE SUMMER AT CMT MAIN STAGE PRODUCTION.


The honored CMT of San Jose - presented its summer season at their new Creative Arts Center outdoor venue. Opening with two youth productions of SNOOPY and STARLIGHT EXPRESS - CMT closes the season with their main stage show AMERICAN IDIOT through July 25th at their Parkmoor Avenue Arts campus. Under the direction of AD Kevin Hauge he says “I have always loved the idea of a summer repertoire series and so one of the many silver linings of this past year is that we get to think outside the box to create art and provide our community with something new”.


This the second time the Idiot nation has visited CMT. Johnny, Tunny and Will are back for a fresh take on GREEN DAY’S Tony winner. Directed by Kevin Hauge and his creative team Sarah Bylsma, Rudy Fuentes and Tarif Pappu they bring a competent cast with color blind casting with two alternating companies. The musical's origin was the groundbreaking 2004 pop-punk concept album by East Bay band Green Day, that was adapted into a impressionistic, full-scale jukebox musical that premiered at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 2009. Billie teamed with Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening) to workshop a musical based on his Grammy Award winning AMERICAN IDIOT LP. I had the honor to watch Armstrong and Mayer create this Tony award-winning musical. It then moved to NY for a short run, the New York theater community was not that excited. Yet the fans kept the books paid, Billie Joe Armstrong had to join the cast in the role of St Jimmy to recoup the producers' money. The Broadway community is never completely pleased with work that is not original.


Hauge has created the passion and high energy anger of post 9/11 youth. The opening anthem “American Idiot” leads us into the pounding ballads under the music direction of Amie Jan and her seven piece full throttle band. The terrific musician Adrianna Khoo, performs an impressive Cello solo during the classic “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”. I would have liked to see the band featured more as in the original staging the band members are part of the cast. Hauge elected to hide his talented musicians behind a scrim. On the downside, the music -- performed well by seven musicians -- loses some of its oomph and edge in this outdoor setting. But on the plus side, placing more emphasis on the actors, especially when they are so close to the audience, sheds new emotional insight on the rather underwritten story about American youth trying to escape a barren existence, only to find their choices have brutal consequences. Hauge softened the limited dialogue for his family audiences and I was impressed he kept the harsh drug use up front.


The action revolves around three teenagers, Johnny, the "Jesus of Suburbia" played by Leandro Billelo and Jonah Horowitz, Tunny played by Gian Kamal and Miles Bayer. The third idiot is Will, played by Quinn Dembecki and Milo Mee. The three teens are bored, in the opening number "American Idiot". They plot their escape to the city, but Will's plans get sidetracked with his girlfriend Heather, played by an empathetic Tori Coleman and Leynah Nguyen. She is pregnant and he stays behind. In the city, Johnny falls hard for an exotic girl Whatsername played by two sizzling actors Isabella Esler and Gwenaveire Garlick. Tunny is lured by the military and goes off to war in the Middle East, where he gets injured and falls in love with an Extraordinary Girl played by two vocal powerhouse singers Lainie Moniz and Phoenix LaFreniere, who nurse his injuries and fill him with narcotics to numb his pain.



The three leads I saw are strong, particularly Miles Bayer who is charismatic as Tunny. The talented Elijah Ramos plays one of the St. Jimmy’s, Johnny's alter-ego who gets him hooked on drugs and nihilism. Ramos does his best to bring the danger and chaos that gives the story it's villain. The choreography is a bit clumsy at times but “Favorite Son” and “Are We Waiting” are impressive. At the performance I attended, the passionate Leandro Billelo played Johnny, he has an amazing energy and voice for the role. He brings an intense reality to the lost boy and his journey to nowhere. “When It’s Time” is an emo classic that Billelo sings with confidence. Miles Bayer, as Tunny has a stunning voice, and his very poignant solo “Before the Lobotomy” is moving.


The authentic Milo Mee plays the third Idiot, Will, who stays back once he learns he is about to be a dad. Mee spends most of his time as a couch potato stressing over Johnny’s travels, but remains one of the more dynamic actors on stage. The three idiots bring that Green Day passion to “Jesus of Suburbia”.

Johnny meets Whatshername on his travels to his dark city, the pitch perfect Gwenaveire Garlick in “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, She brings her heartbreak and passion to this production especially in the powerful “21 Guns” that Billie wrote specifically for this musical. The elegant Phoenix LaFreniere as Extraordinary Girl, and her compassion for Tunny is fully realized in the song “Extraordinary Girl”. Both ensembles pour their hearts and souls to the many iconic numbers from Armstrong's songs “Jesus of Suburbia”, “Give Me Novacaine”, “Before the Lobotomy”, “Letterbomb” and many more.


Another stand out performance is Arturo Collaso who shines in “Favorite Son”. Other cast members have a number of impressive solos in “Rock and Roll Girlfriend”, “Nobody Likes You” and “Good Riddance” that include a large ensemble cast that I listed below. These young actors from the first note to the last bow all work exceptionally well together and sing and move with such ferocity that you can't help but be swept up in their vibrant performances. Billie always mentioned to me he wanted the amps at 11 for his rock opera, and when he entered the Berkeley Rep for early workshops he replaced all the house amps with his high end volume gear. CMT did not have the ear plug roar, yet had the heart and soul that Green Day is easy to see in this version of IDIOT. Billie had ear plugs placed in the lobby for fans that needed them. This production almost met that need.



"We’re Coming Home Again” brings the show to a close, the three have done their best to move forward in their lives, but in the end they have moved only backwards. John, Will, Tunny and company sing “Whatshername” and Johnny announces “This is my life”. CMT’s keen AMERICAN IDIOT has an in-your-face and metaphorically high-energy, emotional production. After the company takes their bows, the cast returns, and elegantly perform the song "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)". In the end you would be an idiot not to see what our hometown heroes Green Day have brought to the theatre. This company invites you an opportunity to be an IDIOT and a Jesus of Suburbia.


CMT Main Stage presents

AMERICAN IDIOT

Music by Green Day

lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong

book by Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer


Directed by Kevin Hauge and his creative team

Sarah Bylsma, Rudy Fuentes, and Tarif Pappu


Music Director Amie Jan


Must Close July 25

CMT Creative Arts Center

1545 Parkmoor Ave, San Jose Ca

90 min no intermission


ALL REMAINING PERFORMANCES ARE SOLD OUT


Cast One

Johnny ................................. Jonah Horowitz

Tunny .......................................Gian Kamal

Will .................................. Quinn Dembecki

Alysha .............................. Jessica O’Gorman

Heather ............................. Leynah Nguyen

Josh ................................... Arturo Collaso

Andrew ........................... Aidan Venneman

Declan ................................ Daniel Smith

Gerard .......................... Hamilton Maletsky

Ben ......................................... Aaron Trigg

Theo .................................... Oliver Yellin

Chase .................................... Dylan Flores

Miguel .................................. Lorenzo Aseo

Whatsername ........................... Isabella Esler

St. Jimmy ................................. Caiden King

Extraordinary Girl ..................... Lainie Moniz


Cast two

Johnny .................................. Leandro Bilello

Tunny ..................................... Miles Bayer

Will ........................................... Milo Mee

Alysha ............................... Kalisse Ajlouny

Heather ................................ Tori Coleman

Josh .................................. Arturo Collaso

Andrew .......................... Aidan Venneman

Declan ................................ Daniel Smith

Gerard ........................ Hamilton Maletsky

Ben ...................................... Aaron Trigg

Theo .................................... Oliver Yellin

Chase .................................... Dylan Flores

Miguel .................................. Lorenzo Aseo

Whatsername ................ Gwenaveire Garlick

St. Jimmy ................................ Elijah Ramos

Extraordinary Girl ............. Phoenix LaFreniere


Ensemble: Miles Bayer, Riley Blackwell, Mariana Camara, Carina Castellino, Jeffrey Czarnik, Katherine Floering, Alyssa Flores, Amyrah Furaha

Alana Garrison, Liliana Ibsen, Nivedita Kripalani, Lily Le, Kim Messersmith

Kaylie Moniz, Dia Nguyen, Zeiler Randall-Reed, Emma Ross, Anna Savage

Justin Southworth, Hailey Thomas, James Trujillo, Jared Weinstock, Rylee Weon

Avril Wheeler, Lilith Wilds, Stoli Wolfgang, Kyle Yamashita, Zainab Aziz

Catherine Cabales, Alexandra Coleman, Mary Davis, Sammy de Kay,Quinn Dembecki, Haley Derrick, Owen Edwards, Chloë Fehr, Jenika Fernando

Kayla Flowers, Gian Kamal, Caiden King, Strawberry Layton, Victoria Liu

Kore Malate, Wylie Merritt, Annika Paylor, Jamie Penilla, Jazlyn Piera

Zeiler Randall-Reed, Francesca Rossi. Justin Southworth.James Trujillo

Callie Watson. Jared Weinstock. Kyle Yamashita, Lia Yereslove, Carolyn Zazueta


CMT’s Managing Director Dana Zell.

"The opening of our Creative Arts Center coincided beautifully with the opening of California. We are thrilled to have over 200 participants in rehearsals for our three summer shows and we all can’t wait to present live theater once again. While we love our performance home at the Montgomery Theater, our 2021 summer outdoor performance venue will allow us to offer live, in-person performances in a Covid-Safe environment before returning to the Montgomery in the Fall”


Artistic Director Kevin Hauge

“I have always loved the idea of a summer repertoire series and so one of the many silver linings of this past year is that we get to think outside the box to create art and provide our community with something new. Victoria has done a marvelous job in designing such a unique space where all three worlds of our summer productions can come to life” said Hauge, who this season completes his 25th year as Artistic Director.




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