Butter Side Up Theatre Company’s Green Day’s American Idiot – 14 July 2023, Leadmill

Review by Claire Taranaski.

It’s not often that I get blown away by a musical that I have not seen before but that is exactly what happened last night at the Leadmill (the queue in the rain that went all the way round the corner to Karen’s Diner should have been a clue) in a musical that at it’s simplest can be described as a musical for those who don’t love musicals (though I do and absolutely loved this) but do love a incredible rock gig.

We have been reviewing Butter Side Up from almost the very beginning but this show has upgraded them from a company to watch to one of the best companies in Sheffield with a show full of energy and passion that I can’t imagine a professional production of the show improving upon and would make Billie Joe Armstrong and the rest of Green Day (honoured in the musical not just with the awesome production but the iconic red and black outfit colour scheme.

If like us you are new to the musical, this sung-through rock musical tells the story of Johnny, Tunny and Will struggling to find meaning in a post-9/11 world (the video clips on the screens before curtain rises will transport you back there). When the three disgruntled men flee the constraints of their hometown for the thrills of city life, their paths are quickly estranged when Tunny enters the armed forces, Will’s girlfriend falls pregnant and Johnny’s life spirals out of control.

The full company and the band performances throughout were full of a passion and energy I have not seen before, making full use of the Leadmill venue and a minimalist but effective set, thanks to the superb direction of Harry Lynch Bowers, musical direction of Livs Needham and choreographer Holly Strawson who also played Swing in the show.

The musical numbers feature all the songs from the American Idiot album and some of their B-sides as well as songs from “21st Century Breakdown”, which like a Meatloaf album felt perfectly written for a musical, and constantly brilliantly moved the energy in the room from more energised than a Duracell bunny to almost moved to tears with moving stunning ballads all perfectly sandwiched between the opening number of “American Idiot” and (after an applause so long the cast didn’t seem to know what to do with themselves) “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”.

Two actors whose performances stood out even higher than the rest and deserve a special mention are Michael Hudson as Johnny who I truly believed was not acting but actually going through what Johnny had experienced on stage in an emotionally powerful performance and with incredible stage presence that meant we could never take are eyes off him; and Jamie Cooke as Tunny whose hopelessness (accompanied by video of his hallucinations) during his performances of “Before The Lobotomy” and “Extraordinary Girl” will haunt me for a long time to come.

As a mum myself I must also give a special mention to Hannah Wade as Heather, who took me back to those first couple of months as a new mum where your focus and love is centred on this new person you and your partner have brought into the world.

I came into the performance wife of a Green Day fan and left a massive fan myself so if you love live music or want to see a shocking but incredible musical that will blow your musical mind (and is more than worthy of the six stars on the poster) don’t miss your last opportunity to see Green Day’s American Idiot this evening (Saturday 15th July) at the Leadmill.

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