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American Idiot - AT&T Performing Arts Center

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The most grueling part of American Idiot, the Broadway musical based on Green Day's album of the same name, is the opening number, "American Idiot." It's an overplayed song, and the dance sequence makes you think you're in for something that resembles High School Musical.

From there, things drastically improve. The setting transforms into something dank, dark and full of F-bombs, partying, more F-bombs and misspent youth, as the story centers around a hyper-mental punk rock kid and his two pals, who are desperate to escape to the big city.

The designers did a glorious job of delicately combining the oil-and-water worlds of R-rated rock and the dazzle of modern opera/theatre tricks, and the use of about 20 flat screens, staggered along the back of the set, allowed for easy flow from one scene to the next. At times, the action in the scene syncs up with the last beat of the song. That's nothing to those who attend theatre regularly, but for us rock fans who rarely do, it's pretty inspiring.

The cast of singers and dancers didn't go too Fame, and many of them are decent musicians.The story locks you in and is moved along not by a pit orchestra, but a five-piece rock band, lit dimly in the background. And there's no attempt to water down the adult content: Fucking, fighting, bong-sucking, beer-slamming and needle-injecting all make their way into the story, but it's done with plenty of emotion.

By the way: Kudos to the cast's surprise ending, as they took yet another overplayed Green Day song and spun it into something really cool. Make sure you don't leave early to beat the traffic.

American Idiot runs through May 20.

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