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Rock opera "American Idiot" nails the music but misses the heart

Staff Writer

The Green Day musical “American Idiot” has more of a sensibility than an actual plot.

Seriously, you could text all the dialogue in a few minutes and still have enough juice in your phone to download the Broadway cast recording, which I recommend you give a listen, because it’s glorious, with beautifully rendered hits such as “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” “Jesus of Suburbia,” “Know Your Enemy” and “21 Guns.”

A mere slip of a show at 90 minutes with no intermission, “American Idiot” is now at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts for a 13-day run.

The rock opera’s score combines songs from the punk band’s 2004 concept album, “American Idiot,” with two additional songs that were released as B-sides in Europe as well as four songs from 2009’s “21st Century Breakdown.”

If you’re not a fan of the band, do yourself a favor and Google the lyrics from these two albums so you can appreciate the poetry. It all happens so fast onstage, you’ll miss themes about the struggle between love and rage, authenticity and fabrication in a politically angry, post-9/11 world.

The story, what there is of it, centers on three slacker friends stuck in suburbia. Two of them, Johnny (Jared Nepute) and Tunny (Dan Tracy), escape to the city. Will (Casey O’Farrell) stays home with Heather (Mariah MacFarlane), who is pregnant with his child. In the city, Johnny falls for a girl named Whatsername (Olivia Puckett). The two succumb to drug addiction via an alter ego of Johnny’s named St. Jimmy (Carson Higgins). Meanwhile, Tunny enlists in the military, is wounded, and in the hospital meets the Extraordinary Girl (Taylor Jones) , who nurses him back to health. After defeating the numbing effects of drugs, all three friends reunite.

That’s it. That’s what you see. What is going on in their heads is in the lyrics. Yet there’s very little to grab onto. The story comes off as if it were narrated...hmm, or even tweeted...from the album to the stage, without ever traveling through the heart. There were many walkouts on opening night.

Oh, but do stay for a few seconds after the curtain drops. There is the equivalent of a movie “stinger” you will not want to miss, an acoustic coda that sends you out of the theater wondering why you haven’t downloaded more Green Day music.

“American Idiot” is running through April 6 at Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., in Fort Lauderdale. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, with 2 p.m. matinees Saturdays (and Wednesday, April 2) and 1 p.m. matinees Sundays; and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, March 30. Tickets cost from $34.50-$79.50. Call 954-462-0222 or go to

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