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Theater review: 'American Idiot' 3.5 stars

Billie Joe Armstrong in

Billie Joe Armstrong in "American Idiot" Photo Credit: Getty

American Idiot

3.5 stars

It’s no secret that Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong has joined the cast of “American Idiot.”

But how theatrical and clever of the show’s producers to make a pre-show announcement that “the role of St. Jimmy will be played by Billie Joe Armstrong,” prompting the crowd to cheer in anticipation.

Adapted from the 2004 double album of the same name, “American Idiot” is a loosely structured rock opera presented as a relentless assault on the senses. It observes a trio of young males looking for something better in life than boredom in suburbia. The score includes tunes like “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” “21 Guns” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.”

In spite of Green Day’s international popularity, “American Idiot” has not turned out to be the smash that many expected it to be.

Still, the show sold out when Armstrong unexpectedly joined the cast for a week in the fall, which prompted his extended return.

St. Jimmy, played by Armstrong, is a hallucinatory figure who brings Johnny, played by the intense John Gallagher Jr., into a world of drugs and mayhem. While “American Idiot” lacks a coherent plot, Johnny’s downward spiral and desperate need to break away from St. Jimmy adds dramatic tension.

Armstrong, who is noticeably older than the rest of the cast and makes a point of showing off his tattoos, comes across as a genuine punk rocker and not a clean-cut kid simply belting rock anthems.

Armstrong’s role is small, but he rips across the stage like a mighty force of nature and creates a genuine impression.

So long as you can overlook the inconsistencies of the plot, “American Idiot” is pretty enjoyable on second viewing. It offers passionately sung Green Day anthems, a disciplined cast raging against the machine, violent choreography and an incredible use of video imagery.

If you go: “American Idiot” plays at the St. James Theatre. 246 W. 44th St., 212-239-6200,


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