Theater Review: Excellent Production Of Unique Musical Closing Brookfield’s Exceptional Season
BROOKFIELD — The Brookfield Theater is closing out its exceptional 2019 season by taking on the challenge of producing the multifaceted hustle that is American Idiot, Green Day’s riveting musical, with lyrics and book by Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer.
With many of Green Day’s well- and lesser-known songs, a tale of frustration, boredom, and choices is strung together. Three suburban young men — Johnny (played by David Anctil), Will (Noah Leibowitz), and Tunny (Mason Sacco) — sing, bang their heads, and drink beer until they have collectively had enough of their aimless lifestyle.
On the verge of their departure, with no particular plan, only knowing they do not want to end up an “American Idiot,” Will learns his girlfriend, Heather (Ruby White), is pregnant. His mission thwarted, he remains on his sofa drinking until Heather takes her newborn and leaves him. She hooks up with Favorite Son (Jared Reynolds).
Tunny enlists and is sent to war and returns injured. He recovers and finds love in the process with Extraordinary Girl (Carly Phypers), who is also a hospital nurse.
The story closely follows the trials and tribulations of Johnny, who makes for the city, where he finds himself lost and lonely. He falls for a girl, Whatsername (Anna Hicks), whom he barely knows, is encouraged to get caught up in IV drug use by his alter ego, St Jimmy (Jamie Valzania), and is driven to despair. He ends up lost and lonely.
All three return home, warmly welcoming each other back into the fold. Finding their dreams dashed, there is still much for them to share, and their enduring friendship survives.
The main characters are accompanied throughout by a dancing, singing, and simpatico group of young people who fill a number of roles. This energetic and talented group includes Elizeth Brito, Phil DeHuff, Sabine Dempster, Sarah Denn, Faith Fernandez, Amanda Higley, Matthew MacGregor, Kate Patton, and Jasmin Love Salas.
All three of the lead actors are well-cast as they play their roles to the hilt, often while strumming a guitar.
David Anctil’s Johnny dances beautifully; he reminds one of James Corden, his moves appear to emanate from his very core as they quake through his nervous system.
Noah Leibowitz is a soulful Will, rendering his character as a man who cannot get out of his own way, until he has to.
Absolutely mesmerizing, Mason Sacco’s Tunny is genuine and heartbreaking, even as he tangles with Extraordinary Girl dangling from a trapeze. Sacco’s face registers constant and complete engagement with his character.
The leading female roles are all filled by women who are each talented vocalists.
Ruby White gives her Heather an ethereal, almost angelic quality, while Extraordinary Girl Carly Phypers is nothing but goodness. Ms Hicks is strong and sweet as Whatsername loves and loses her man.
This is not a musical so much meant to be understood as it is to be absorbed as it washes over you. Much of the music is familiar and very well-played by the onstage band. The musical direction by Adam Snyder is set at the exact right decibel, while maximizing the significant vocal skills of this cast.
Director Beth Bonnabeau has met the challenge of this musical with a keen eye and an exceptional ability to draw the audience’s attention to an intended target.
The lighting design by Stephen Cihanek must be given a mention for its complexity and flawless execution.
The dance numbers are almost constant, some appearing less choregraphed than others, which is precisely what is required for this piece in which the characters yearn for freedom from their drudgery. Choreographer Alicia Dempster hit upon a specific style, and the cast made it work. It was wonderful to watch.
Once again, Andrew Okell and Steve Cihanek have designed a set that plays perfectly as a backdrop to the struggle and frustration the characters portray.
Don’t miss what is surely a unique, excellently performed, and rarely produced musical.
Performances continue weekends, Friday and Saturday evenings through November 23 and Sunday afternoons, November 10 and 17. Tickets are $25 adults, $20 students and senior citizens, and are available by calling 203-775-0023 or online at brookfieldtheatre.org.
Parents should note that the two-time Tony Award-winning musical does include mature content. It is not intended for young audiences; the theater’s website suggests ages 12 and over.
Brookfield Theatre for the Arts is at 184 Whisconier Road (Route 25), behind Brookfield Library