American Idiot review: Greenday, broken dreams and a touch of Jesus

Like every 90s kid I was raised on pop-punk, so I couldn't wait to watch the 10th anniversary UK tour of American Idiot. And it did not disappoint. The musical exuded high energy from the start and the opening number ('American idiot') received a rapturous applause from the audience.

The chemistry between the three main characters - Johnny (Tom Milner), Will (Samuel Pope) and Tunny (Joshua Dowen) - was tangible and they epitomised the teen angst encapsulated in Green Day's seventh studio album. 'I don't care' led us through teen pregnancy, drunkenness and a general discontent with the world, aided in part by the innovative and well executed choreography (Racky Plews).

Fed up of suburban life, Johnny and Tunny head to the city to pursue new dreams and opportunities, but are both, ultimately, disappointed ('Boulevard of broken dreams'). The inspired set design (Sara Perks) helped to create a jarring juxtaposition, which ran throughout the production: Will's boredom at staying home while becoming a dad versus Johnny's wild life in a new city; a self-indulgent sex scene versus a sacrificial military battle; debutant Luke Friend's compelling portrayal of the vivacious St Jimmy versus Johnny's declining physical and mental health.

The second act opened with Johnny's incredibly uncomfortable, but remarkable, drug taking scene. Pin-drop silence accompanied Tom Milner's standout performance as he spent himself drooling, crying and retching.

The heartbreak of teenage hedonism and questioning reached its in pinnacle in 'Before the lobotomy', which spoke of death, misery and dreaming. Their hectic distress was almost palpable, making the audience feel suitably unsettled.

By the end of the show each of the three protagonists had reached the end of themselves and were "in ruins", yet they were all suffering in silence. 'Wake me up when September ends' was a reminder of their individual and corporate pain, but it also served as a rallying cry to come back together and be there for each other. This homecoming was thankfully realised in the penultimate song, when they all sang: "We're coming home again."

The on-stage band were exceptional, including the emotive violin, which cut through at key moments. The entire cast gave first-class performances - the only slight disappoint was Sam Lavery's somewhat wooden Whatsername - and they all earned their unanimous standing ovation.

When the boys headed to the big city near the start of the show, Johnny asked whether they were going to waste their lives or "get the f***k out of here". His friends' response was: "Thank you Jesus! You saved my F***ing life." Their words were evidently seeped in sarcasm, yet the Jesus they decried, ironically, does have the power to save their lives.

While the direction may not have been intentional, towards the end of the show Johnny made a crucifix sign with his body, after crying: "It's time to wake up." To me, this hinted at the possibility of new life and the promise of a tangible resurrection hope for these broken teenagers and their seemingly hopeless world.

The American Idiot UK tour runs until the end of the summer. To find out more and book tickets visit

Ruth is editor of Premier Youth and Children's Work magazine. She previously worked at CBBC's Blue Peter before moving to Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, where she helped set up the youth apologetics strand Reboot. Ruth recently contributed to Hope Rising 365, a book for young women. She also plays bass in all-girl rock 'n roll band The Daisy Chains.