“American Idiot” Rocks The House
American Idiot, brought to the Cumberland Theatre by Front and Center Stage of Cumberland, Md., brings the Green Day’s rock opera concept album to life on the stage. Front & Centre Stage is a non-profit theater company serving Allegany County and surrounding communities, performing several shows a year, and featuring performers of “all ages and walks of life.”
The show runs Sept. 9, 10, 16, and 17 at 8 p.m. and Sept. 11 and 18 at 2 p.m. With a book and lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer, American Idiot tells the stories of Johnny, Will, and Tunny, three friends whose lives take three very separate paths which include drugs, pregnancy, and military deployment to the Middle East in the early, post-9/11 2000s.
With the the support of an incredible set– a jungle of scaffolding, beds, couches, and plenty of televisions, the cast, all decked-out in their early 2000s punk rock best, rocks the stage in a lively and impressive display of talent and athleticism (bravo!) that keeps the audience engaged and enthralled throughout the performance. The interesting use of technology as part of the set and as part of the lighting and sound design help to create a raw intensity to rival professional performances.
In the lead role as Johnny, Gibb Cochrum gives a chilling performance, with monologue delivery reminiscent of the original Broadway cast’s John Gallagher Jr. (of Spring Awakening fame). But it is Cochrum’s vocals and live guitar playing that is most impressive. He brings to the role a hint of modernized originality that keeps audiences wanting more.
Jesse Wilson as Johnny’s alter-ego, St. Jimmy, brings a punked-out, scream-o element to the character. Wilson gives a haunting performance as the personification of Johnny’s drug dependency, continuously taunting Johnny with the temptation of getting high again and again.
Other notable performances come from Aimee Conley as Heather and Kirk Yutzy as Will, whose onstage chemistry can only be described as brilliant. With the climactic “F*CK YOU” during the song “Too Much Too Soon,” they give a frighteningly real, spine-tingling moment for everyone onstage and in the audience.
Hayden Conley as Tunny and Savannah Humberston as The Extraordinary Girl provide a stoically romantic performance as an injured soldier and his field medic. Vocally, Conley and Humbertson both flawlessly execute harmonies that are delightful ear-candy.
Kimberli Rowley as Whatsername, Johnny’s mysterious love interest, gives a powerfully driven performance. The chemistry between her and Cochrum is palpable and a joy to watch. About the directing the show, Rowley says, “I’ve wanted to direct and perform in a production of this show since it debuted. I’ve always loved the album and I knew I would love the show just as much if not more. I think it’s a good time to do the show considering the state of American culture these days. Maybe it will cause people to pause and realize that even though our journeys are all different, we really are all trying to end up in the same place.”
The ensemble cast displays loads of talent, particularly the powerhouse vocals of Nina Wollan as Alysha and Ian Robinson as Favorite Son. The rest of the cast including Stephen Gumtz, Emily Haworth, Victoria Mann, Lisa-Anna Maust, Whitney O’Haver, Jayna Raines, and Brett Reel, gives energy and life to every part of the show. Musical direction by Daniel Chambers and choreography by Brittany Eberly round out the squad with all of the right and none of the wrong.
Stage manager and Frostburg State University student Jennifer Grein says, “the first weekend went amazing! The energy, excitement, and passion from the cast was through the roof, and the audience loved it. Especially performing a show like this on Sept. 11, the emotions from the cast and the audience were so real, it was amazing.”
Rowley-Dinteman notes, “I hope [audiences] see what the culture created by 9/11 has done to the young adults in our country. What the fear and ignorance that the media feeds our society is doing to what was once a thriving and fearless generation. I hope they see what those fears and insecurities have driven people to…drug abuse, hopelessness, depression. And, most of all, I hope they take away an appreciation for the art of performance and the feelings and thoughts it can evoke in all of us.”
Tickets and event schedules are available online at www.frontandcentrestage.com.