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Genesius’ ‘American Idiot’ delivers a powerful portrait of the post 9/11 generation

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Green Day’s music reflects the ‘time of their lives’

 

REVIEW WRITTEN BY CHERYL THORNBURG 
For Digital First Media

Green Day’s “American Idiot” electrified the Genesius stage Friday night before a young and enthusiastic audience familiar with much of the music.
The regional premiere of this non-stop rock opera more than lived up to expectations.
The show is one of the most powerful and intense productions I have ever seen. The music is heart-pounding and at times explosive. The imagery, supplied by ingenious sets and emotionally charged video special effects, sets the tone for this post-9/11 story about three young men from the suburbs who try to make sense of the world and their lives.

Spencer Moss Fecho as Johnny the Jesus of Suburbia on the scaffolding set for “American Idiot.” Photo by Kathi Christie

Spencer Moss Fecho as Johnny the Jesus of Suburbia on the scaffolding set for “American Idiot.”
Photo by Kathi Christie


“American Idiot” reflects much of what was happening with the young generation stunned by the traumatic events that changed all of us.

IF YOU GO
“American Idiot” continues Wednesday through Sunday Feb. 7 at Genesius Theatre, 10th and Walnut streets in Reading. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. each night. A matinee performance is offered at 3 p.m. on Sunday Feb. 7. A special 11 p.m. show will be offered Friday Feb. 5. Tickets are: Friday/Saturday – $28.50/$22.50/$17.50 and Wednesday/Thursday/Sunday – $23.50/$20/$17.50. Tickets for the 11 p.m. show on Feb. 5 are $20. For tickets, visit www.genesiusdifference.org or call 610-373-9500. Card fees apply. Tickets may also be available at the door, but some shows are selling out.
The play is RATED R. This musical contains profane language, drug-use, nudity and adult content and is recommended for mature audiences. The production also has lots of special effects including strobe lights and haze.
“American Idiot” runs non-stop. There is no intermission.
Genesius Theatre is handicapped accessible and there is free parking (limited spaces available) next to the theater. For more information, call the theater at 610-371-8151.

The three lifelong friends, Johnny, Will and Tunny, decide to escape suburbia and move to the city, but not everything goes as planned. Will’s girlfriend gets pregnant and he stays behind to raise his family, but doesn’t handle it well. The other two do venture out. Johnny gets involved with drugs and more and Tunny joins the army and heads off to war. Their individual lives are chronicled by different Green Day songs as the settings switch back and forth.
Director LJ Fecho has put together an amazing cast in tune with the angst, frustration and anger of this thought-provoking production.
Spencer Moss Fecho shows off his acting chops as the angry and disillusioned Johnny. His voice is well-suited to Green Day’s hard-hitting rock numbers like “American Idiot,” “Jesus of Suburbia,” and “Holiday.”
Bo Irwin delivers a strong performance as Will, who has trouble dealing with his impending fatherhood. He shines in numbers like “Too Much Too Soon” with Mamie Covell as his girlfriend, Heather, and in “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” with Johnny, Tunny and the Company. “Too Much Too Soon” also features Kelly Moray as Alysha and Joey Moray as Theo.
Brandon Kegerize adds another diverse and poignant performance to his credits as Tunny who is seduced by patriotic propaganda on TV and goes off to war. His scenes after being wounded are particularly moving. He gets to show off his vocal talent in many numbers and his performance in “Extraordinary Girl” with Briana Christie as The Extraordinary Girl, is memorable. Christie is a veteran of many Genesius productions, including the outstanding “Carrie the Musical,” and adds a new maturity and sensitivity to this performance.
Justin Monick, a newcomer to Genesius, is mesmerizing as St. Jimmy, a charismatic drug dealer at the heart of many of the chaotic and haunting scenes from this show. Of particular note are his performances in “St. Jimmy” and “Last Night on Earth.”
Another young, but veteran Genesius performer, Kara Snyder, is unforgettable in her role as Whatsername, the sensual young woman who captures Johnny’s attention. Snyder’s vocals are spot on, whether in “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” or the hard-hitting “Last of the American Girls” or “21 Guns.”
Also featured is Jessie Hoffman who gets to showcase his talent as Favorite Son in the number of the same name.
The ensemble members, who deliver many high energy, complex routines, include Apollo Loose, Hunter-Willow Jones, Ashleigh Gantert, Chaewon Yoon, Jeffrey Fleming, Julian Morales, Chloe Ferreri, Marie “Susie” DeBooth, Corey Clark, Megan Cusano, Dara Himes, Meredith Stone, Dominic Richard, Noah Schippers, Elizabeth Pienta and Rosanna “Sani” Pereira.
The show ends on a positive note with one of Green Day’s best-known songs, “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).” It’s the one that will stick with you as you head home from the theater.
This production is a complex and total package delivered by some of the area’s most talented people and supported technically by many local businesses.
Dave Neel of Production Solutions, Inc., is music director and conductor. The first-rate musicians backing up the cast include Tony Veloz on violin, Greg Reber on viola, Caitlyn Case on cello, Chris Kijak on guitar, Mikaela Krall on guitar, Frank Fraser on bass, Mike Simmons on drums and Neel on keyboard.
The dramatic and complex choreography for this show is by Jericho Joy of Monarch Dance Studio, West Reading. The lights and special effects are by designer, Andy Babin, with Projections by Fecho and Babin, and the set is designed by Fecho and John Bigos. Simmon Fecho-Gage and Stephanie DeLillo are the stage managers.

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