Escondido, CA

Patio Playhouse’s ‘American Idiot’ is an ear-splitting battle for the soul

~ Patio Playhouse kicks off It’s 50th season

If you’re going to kick off your 50th season, you may as well make it loud. Patio Playhouse’s hectic rendition of “American Idiot” is a punk jukebox musical adaptation of Green Day’s most famous (and arguably best) album.

It tells the tale of three young men, Johnny, Will, and Tunny (is that even a real name?), who struggle to escape the boredom of suburbia. As they all venture out into the world in an effort to escape lives as contented couch po­tatoes, they come to realize that while the adult world does offer escape from such sterility, it is not much of a cake­walk either.

The story, however, takes a backseat to the ensuing jukebox rock ‘n rollin’. It became clear from the get-go that Patio’s cast had a blast with the ma­terial. They immersed themselves within the attitude-heavy world of punk rock, wearing punk clothing, screaming, dancing, and headbanging their hearts out in time to the songs of Green Day’s rock epic, while occa­sionally flipping the bird at the audi­ence in a fittingly appropriate display of attitude.

Director Matthew Fitzgerald also saw fit to give more roles to women, giving them equal ground when it came to singing. And hooray for that, as the gals all had the best pipes of the ensemble; Taylor Henderson and Madison Hansmeyer both knocked it out of the park (or amphitheater, in this case) as Whatsername and Heath­er, respectively. Each of them man­aged to belt out not only the notes, but truly raw emotion as well, speaking to their talent as both singers and actress­es. Pamelo Basurto, the Extraordinary Girl, also got to shine in a particularly unique dance number during the song of the same name.

The men also held their ground, al­though lead performer Kevin Phan’s singing suffered initially due to a bad mic. Jason Schlarmann became the play’s scene-stealer as the wild St. Jimmy. Boasting the best voice of all the male performers, Schlarmann could have been mistaken for Billie Joe Armstrong’s long-lost brother, with his all-black attire, spiky hair, and joyfully erratic charisma as he wildly paraded around the stage, reveling in his character’s drugged-out antics. In his final scene, Schlarmann’s perfor­mance seemed to even channel DC Comics villain The Joker, if Joker was a punk rocker.

The onstage band that played in sync with the singers is deserving of particular praise, as they played Green Day’s songs to perfection, never once missing a beat. Besides utilizing tra­ditional rock instruments, some vio­lins were thrown in to emphasize the somber content of certain songs, like “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.”

However, a single factor detracted somewhat from the play, something that’s hard to blame anyone for, but was also difficult to ignore: the sound quality. Because the play requires a lot of moving, often the mics, which were already taped to the actors’ cheeks, tended to jitter. As a result, their voices dropped out at the most inopportune moments, whether it was during a musical number or dialogue. Also, the speakers let out electronic screeches at a painful volume some­times, although this was a rare occur­rence. Since I’m reviewing Patio’s second night (as well as their first play I have seen), giving them the benefit of the doubt seems only fair.

The bottom line is, despite technical issues, Patio Playhouse’s “American Idiot” has attitude, style, and talent to spare. It gets the music down to a tee and the accompanying, albeit loose story allows for some flashy dancing and impressive singing from the cast. I’d say that the fiftieth season is off to a good start.

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