Whether “American Idiot” represents a new wave of musical theater or a surprising development in music video, there’s no denying the moody kinetic thrills of this rabble-rousing pop-punk show, which opened Wednesday at the Ahmanson Theatre.
Based on Green Day's multi-platinum 2004 concept album of the same title and incorporating tracks from the group’s “21st Century Breakdown,” “American Idiot” alchemizes these recordings into a fluidly choreographed spectacle that is often mesmerizing. And while this touring version of the hit Broadway musical may not possess the same eccentric star power, the show is just as visually enthralling as when I first encountered it at Berkeley Rep, where it had its 2009 world premiere in Green Day’s Bay Area backyard.
Director Michael Mayer (a Tony winner for “Spring Awakening”) deserves much of the credit for the show’s electric staging. This surreal multimedia kaleidoscope is set in the tumultuous George W. Bush era, after the shock of 9-11 had transformed into an Iraq War battle cry. And the production's loudly propulsive presentation recreates the feeling of an era that moved too spasmodically for anyone to keep up.