It's not often Broadway in Chicago brings back a touring musical stage production for another run less than a year after it played the Windy City.
But this is indeed the case for "American Idiot," the production showcasing the songs and music of the band Green Day, which opened Tuesday at Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago and continues until Sunday.
The return visit is now a non-equity tour produced by Work Light Productions, compared to last February's visit, which included a number of cast members from the New York Broadway run.
Although I didn't enjoy last year's production of this 100-minute no intermission "rock 'n' shock" stage race of nearly two dozen songs connected by a thin story concept, my second introduction to "American Idiot" for this time around, left me feeling far more charitable.
It's no revelation that "American Idiot" with a brighter-than-bright spotlight on the music of Green Day with lyrics by lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong (who also helped write the show's book), is best served up to a die-hard Green Day fan. But there's still something to be learned by listening to the lyrics and impressions shared in each of the scenes.
"American Idiot" is the story of three boyhood friends, each searching for meaning in a post 9/11 world. It thrilled Broadway audiences in New York during its run at the St. James Theatre from March 2010 to April 2011.
The set, neatly woven with television screens embedded in a wall laden with images and reminders of marks of the media and technology, is interesting and it's easy to see how the design won Christine Jones a Tony Award. Alas, there were a few sound problems at Tuesday's opening night, with mics not on and some overlap.
Yes, there are loud musical numbers and in-your-face choreography, all a tribute to a portion of the young generation of self-indulgent, entitled sorts who are tomorrow's leaders and answer to the future. But there are also moving ballads and no shortage of emotion, for those willing to wade through the drugs, sex and moments of raw language.
The idea for "American Idiot," was written and directed by Michael Mayer, who found Broadway success with "Spring Awakening," and features the hits "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," "Wake Me Up When September Ends," "Holiday" and the blockbuster title track "American Idiot" from Green Day's 2004 Grammy Award-winning, multi-platinum album.
Young Alex Nee as the lead character Johnny is an explosion of talent and it's clear there are even bigger and better projects that await his attention (once he graduates from Northwestern University in June). Thomas Hettrick delivers a moving turn as Tunny, whose life becomes filled with military motives. And the dash of spice and raging dark energy in this cast is the capable contrast delivered by talented Trent Saunders as St. Jimmy.
Tickets are $18 to $85 at (800) 775‐2000 or americanidiotthemusical.com or www.BroadwayInChicago.com.