Critic's PickAs I ate dinner on Tuesday evening before attending a performance at Dayton’s Victoria Theatre, my server asked, “Did you hear that Green Day is performing next door?” I had to set her straight. “Well, not exactly. Green Day’s music is being performed next door — it’s a Broadway show that uses the tunes from their American Idiot recording.” I caught the opening night of a three-day gig (through Thursday, March 14) by an energetic touring company that’s recreating the Tony Award-nominated American Idiot: The Musical. If you have time to make an hour north on I-75, you won’t be disappointed.
Green Day’s powerful Punk score — their 2004 album was conceived as a “Punk Rock Opera” — is the perfect soundtrack for the story of three disaffected guys who take different downward spirals when confronted with the numbing boredom of everyday life, “alien nation,” as they sing in the opening number. Johnny is the central character, a wannabe musician who yearns to make it in the city; he convinces his buddies Will and Tunny to join him in escaping suburbia.
Their paths diverge quickly: Will’s girlfriend is pregnant, so he stays to sort things out; Tunny is quickly disaffected by urban life and captivated by dreams of military success; and Johnny, not quite willing to admit his loneliness, dreams about a girl he sees and gets caught by a drug dealer — who’s probably a figment of his imagination. Things don’t turn out well for any of them, and by show’s end they’re back home, chastened by the experience — Tunny’s leg lost in combat, Johnny’s ego shattered and Will’s relationship in ruins. But they seem to be more accepting of their fates. The curtain call features the entire company playing guitars and performing “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” a number that reflects their disillusion, reminiscence and (maybe) forward motion.
The current tour has a young cast (it’s a non-Equity tour) without a ton of experience, but that’s perfect for this show, which demands a stage full of angry energy. They hurtle through the 100-minute performance, diving right into the title tune with thrashing energy demanded by Green Day’s music. (For theater fans, it’s worth noting that Green Day’s music has been orchestrated and arranged by Tom Kitt, composer of the Tony Award-winning next to normal, a show that has a score with similar power.) Steven Hoggett’s pounding choreography captures the physicality of Rock stage performance, rendered rapidly and rhythmically with tons of repetitive angular motion.
Alex Nee, Casey O’Farrell and Thomas Hettrick, as Johnny, Will and Tunny, turn in credible performances of roles that don’t have a lot of depth — and that’s OK. American Idiot is more about emotions than storytelling, and they each capture that: Nee’s hallucinatory attraction to destructive behavior is convincing, O’Farrell’s frustration with being trapped and left behind is believable, and Hettrick’s dreams of heroism and his wake-up call to a damaged life are rendered credibly. Female roles are more stereotyped — two of them don’t even have names: Whatsername and The Extraordinary Girl — but Alyssa DiPalma, Jenna Rubah and Kennedy Caughell (as Heather, the mother of Will’s kid) have fine voices. DiPalma and Rubah have featured choreography (Rubah does an aerial ballet with Hettrick as he recovers in a military hospital) that is effective.
The touring production retains Christine Jones’s scenic design and Kevin Adams’s lighting design, both of which landed 2010 Tony Awards. The set has a floor-to-ceiling rear wall sporting two dozen video screens that support the action — from an opening barrage of mind-numbing, multi-channel news coverage to scene-to-scene punctuation with wry titles. Additionally, the screens are sometimes fed live imagery from an onstage camera, especially when St. Jimmy (Trent Saunders) entices Johnny into the world of addiction, but also during “Favorite Son,” Tunny’s late-night infomercial of military recruitment (performed with muscle-bound humor by Jared Young, backed up by four dancers in sparkling short dresses).
The grunge of American Idiot is made all the more vivid by the green velvet and gilt trim of the Victoria Theatre in downtown Dayton (138 North Main St.). While the nihilistic young men sing, “I don’t care if you don’t care,” I suspect that a lot of people will care about this show, one that reaches out and grabs audiences by the scruff of their necks and never lets up. But bear in mind: Only two more performances — Wednesday and Thursday at 8 p.m. Tickets ($46-$67, half-off student rush, day of show): 937-228-3630 or victoriatheatre.com.
On Saturday afternoon, I attended my first "Met Opera: Live in HD" transmission at the Regal Cinema in Deerfield Township — John Adams' Doctor Atomic.
It was sad news to hear that Thom Shaw, a well-known local printmaker and artist, passed away July 6 from complications due to diabetes. Unfortunately, I heard the news too late to write something in time for the memorial service that took place July 17.
If you're looking for a ride in the time machine this weekend, I recommend that you try to score a ticket for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music (CCM). The 1962 Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winner satirizes the corporate world of the early 1960s, and there are some echoes that sound pretty funny 56 years later.
The Carol Ann’s Carousel was named to honor the life and philanthropy of Carol Ann Haile, according to the information page at mysmaleriverfrontpark.org, and is being funded by a $5 million donation from the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation.
It will sit in a tree-lined plaza amongst a two-story staircase, water cascade and a series of water curtains. The plaza’s lower level will hold a conference center and offices, which will open up to Mehring Way and overlook the lower area of the park. The riverfront carousel is slated to open May 2015.
There will be 44 animals and characters featured on the carousel’s platform, and community engagement sessions are currently being hosted in order to gather as many ideas as possible. The public is invited to share their ideas until June 9, when later the park design team will decide on the final designs based on the city’s suggestions.
Carousel Works of Mansfield, Ohio, the world’s largest wooden carousel manufacturer, will hand carve and paint each animal and character chosen. Ideas are also being gathered for several mural scenes to be painted on the carousel. Jonathan Queen, a local artist, will paint based on what citizens deem what makes Cincinnati unique — its parks, traditions, landmarks.
This riverfront icon will offer a standard two-minute ride and operate year-round.
Even as the Showboat Majestic opens another show this summer (The Art of Murder by Joe DiPietro kicks off tonight and continues through Aug. 28), it’s time to announce the ’boat’s 90th season in 2012, featuring an all-American slate of musicals and comedies to please patrons aboard America’s last showboat, a National Historic Landmark. Here’s the 2012 season:
Over the weekend, Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati announced its 2009-10 season, and it’s full of works you’ve never heard of but will be glad that D. Lynn Meyers has picked. ETC generally offers premieres of works that have been presented elsewhere, but not locally, and she’s kicking off the season with a powerful piece, Moisés Kaufman’s 33 Variations (Sept. 2-20).
Taft Museum of Art has named its new director/CEO to replace Eric Lee, who left in the spring to head the Kimbal Art Museum in Fort Worth. She is Deborah Emont Scott, recently chief curator at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City and before that the museum's Sanders Sosland curator of 20th Century. She becomes the sixth director in the Taft's 77-year-history.
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park Producing Artistic Director Ed Stern today announced that he will leave the esteemed regional theater after two more seasons, following the 2011-12 season, his 20th. Ed’s tenure at the Playhouse predates CityBeat’s coming into existence: He began in 1992, two years before CityBeat began publishing. I had the pleasure of writing about the recovery of the theater under Stern for EveryBody’s News and then for CityBeat; the Playhouse was in desperate financial straits when Stern and Executive Director Buzz Ward took over — a $1.25 million accumulated deficit.
Cincinnati's visual arts community is rallying around the seriously ill artist Brian Joiner to raise money for his medical expenses. This Friday from 5-10 p.m., a retrospective of his work — everything from note cards to a 30-foot work, featuring subjects like running women, a school of fish and his portraits, florals and landscapes — will be on display at the studio of Mary Barr Rhodes