Hornsby Musical Society: American Idiot - Review by Jordan Anderson.
Hey, can you hear the sound of hysteria? Oh, don’t worry, it’s just the sound of Green Day fans screaming the roof off of Hornsby RSL for a weekend of reliving their 90’s punk phase, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I was one of them. The noise that came out of my mouth the second that iconic guitar riff started for American Idiot should not be talked about. And that’s not even mentioning what seeing all that eyeliner did to me. Hornsby Musical Society has exploded onto the stage with their first production for 2023 in all the best ways, and if the energy and quality of the production I witnessed is any indication, then it seems they’re headed for a great year ahead.
American Idiot is not a highbrow musical; it’s not a classic like the Phantom of the Opera or Guys & Dolls; in fact, I would go so far as to say there are many fans of both musical theatre and Green Day that don’t even realise it’s a musical. But that’s not what it’s aiming to be. It’s there to be a release, a chance to scream at the world, and maybe even relive a little of that young adult angst? Or is that just me? Either way, this production has plenty of attitude and energy to go around, enough even to get the most die-hard Gilbert & Sullivan fans fist pumping.
The production team of Emma Young (Director), David Lang and David Russell (Co-Music Directors), and Sarah Paull (Choreographer) have obviously had a shared vision and have executed it with much high-spirited, anarchic energy. I was initially a little bit hesitant about the idea of dance with such music, but from the first explosive fist pump jump into the air, I knew that this show was in more than capable hands. Emma Young has managed to instill the punk attitude and lifestyle into all aspects of this show, from the characterisation to the costuming and set design. I was a huge fan of the simplicity of papering the stage in newspapers and then graffitiing on top of that—super simple but super effective. The music is classic, and Co-MDs David Lang and David Russell have done great work leading an 8-piece band and capturing the grit and essence of the music. I also have to mention that the harmonies in the ensemble were exceptional. And Sarah Paull’s choreography was a real highlight, keeping up with the intensity and demands of the music while also helping to tell the story of the show. The choreography was also executed extremely well by everyone on stage. A true testament to the work put in by Sarah, the cast, and the dance captain
American Idiot tells the story of three young men, Johnny, Tunny, and Will, coming from small-town America, their plans to move to the big city, and the turns that their lives take instead. Along the way, Johnny begins a passionate love affair with Whatsername and a more tumultuous affair with his drug-fueled alter ego, St. Jimmy. Tunny, looking for stability in his life, joins the Army, and Will stays in small-town America with his newly pregnant girlfriend.
Benjamin Gibiec plays Will, the depressed, laissez-faire, drop-kick boyfriend. It was very clever staging to have him on the sidelines, viewing most of the show from his couch, yearning to be involved in the action. His girlfriend Heather, played by Lucy Taylor, had a lovely voice, and it was great to watch her frustration with Benjamin’s despondence. Alexander Whitbourn plays Tunny, the easily swayed suckup, with much finesse. His dance with The Extraordinary Girl, Sarah Whitehead, was a real, beautiful moment of honest truth in the show. Finally, Cameron Mayhew does a fantastic job of leading this trio. The raw energy and contempt for the system rolled off him in waves, and he truly captured that punk feeling of rebellion and isolation. Playing opposite him was Rachel Bendeich as Whatsername, and the chemistry between them was easy to see. Almost stealing the show was Izzy Tilden’s St. Jimmy, the drug-fueled alter ego of Johnny. She came barrelling out of the gate with impish energy and owned that stage.
A huge shout out to the ensemble, who really carry the energy and punkness of the show. Special mentions to cast members Samuel Dobbs, Andrew McBain, Daniella, Giles Marni Collier, and Grace Zhou; my eyes were drawn to them every time they were on stage. I must also give a special mention to John “Jack” Goggin, who was in charge of scenic design, props, stage management, and costumes. Everything had a shared vision and worked so well together; putting the band and the stage crew in the classic black shirt with red tie was genius. The lighting was also phenomenal and gave the feel of a rock concert. My only slight disappointment with the show was the sound. I know this is a very difficult venue to mix for, and having the band on stage would not have helped, but a lot of the vocals, especially from some of the leads and featured ensemble members, were getting lost. However, the power of the band ripped through you and made you want to scream ‘F*ck You’ at the world.
This was a great production and really showcased the young passion and drive that the Hornsby Musical Society has, and I cannot wait to see what they produce next. I give this show 4 fist pumps in the air.
Photos courtesy of SRD Photography