Monday, June 18 , 2018, 3:27 am | Fair 52º


Jeff Moehlis: Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’ in Los Angeles

Broadway musical chronicles the growing pains of three friends from suburbia

Near the beginning of the Broadway musical American Idiot, based on the Grammy Award-winning Green Day album of the same name and showing now through April 22 at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, the main character Johnny (aka Jesus of Suburbia, played by Van Hughes) asks, “Oh my God, is this my life?”

His is a suburban life numbed by TV, beer and boredom, a sorry life shared by his friends, Will (played by Jake Epstein) and Tunny (played by Scott J. Campbell). The setting is mid-2000s Nowhere America, under the cloud of war in some far off land, and under the staging of a bunch of televisions and scaffolding.

The friends decide it’s time to move to the big city, in search of of something, anything else. “Are we gonna waste our lives, or are we gonna get the f*** out of here?” However, at the last minute, Will’s plans to move are thwarted — his girlfriend, Heather (played by Leslie McDonel), reveals that she is pregnant, and he begrudgingly stays behind.

Johnny and Tunny do escape to the city, but their paths diverge. Johnny walks alone on the “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” before picking up a heroin habit, with drugs supplied by St. Jimmy (played by Joshua Kobak). He also gets a wild punk girlfriend Whatsername (played by Gabrielle McClinton).

Tunny instead just stays in bed watching TV until he makes a quick decision to join the military — motivated, it seems, more by a desire to have women find that sexy than to help his country.

In the end, Johnny cleans up but loses the girl, Tunny returns from war missing a leg but with a girlfriend, Will connects with his child although his girlfriend has moved on to someone else, and the friends reunite. All have survived their growing pains into adulthood, albeit probably not in the ways that they expected.

As an encore, the cast fittingly sang the Green Day song “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” arguably the most moving part of the show: “It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right / I hope you had the time of your life.”

The cast is outstanding, and there are definitely some inspired moments in the musical. The opening song “American Idiot” blasts with energy, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” is particularly well staged, “When It’s Time” is movingly sung by Johnny to the sleeping Whatsername, and Tunny’s dreamed aerial ballet with a nurse (played by Nicci Claspell) during “Extraordinary Girl” is incredible.

The musical arrangements of Green Day’s songs by Tom Kitt work well, giving a Broadway treatment without losing the fire of Green Day’s anthemic pop-punk. And the band in the shadows of the stage really let it rip! I would have preferred the choreography to be a bit more inspired by a mosh pit as would befit punk rock, but it was certainly very energetically executed.

Special mention goes to a few old-school punk touches: There is a quote from the Dead Kennedys song “I Kill Children” (“God told me to skin you alive”), and Tunny has a Black Flag tattoo.

Tickets are still available for the upcoming performances, including balcony seats for as low as $25. That’s right, you can get a ticket to a Broadway musical for less than it’ll cost you for the gas for a round trip to Los Angeles from Santa Barbara. Give it a try — you just might have the time of your life.

Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site,

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >