Community Theatre

American Idiot at The Brecksville Theatre Rocks Its Face Off

Review by: Kevin Kelly

Green Day is an American punk rock band formed in 1986 by lead vocalist and guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong. Their major break was the release of the album Dookie which catapulted them to fame, and also introduced them to a more mainstream audience. Green Day's seventh album, American Idiot (2004) was a rock opera that rivaled concept albums like Tommy by The Who, and Jesus Christ Superstar by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The book was written by Armstrong and director Michael Mayer. The music was composed by Green Day and the lyrics were by Armstrong. The score included all the songs from the original American Idiot album, as well as additional Green Day songs from the album 21st Century Breakdown and "When It's Time", a song originally recorded for the musical. In 2010, American Idiot debuted on Broadway. The story and music were strong enough to be nominated for Best Musical. The power of Green Day's music was established even on the great white way.

The story, expanded from that of the concept album, centers on three disaffected young men, Johnny (compelling Tony Heffner), Will (introspective Dallas Still) and Tunny (dauntless David Ludick). Johnny and Tunny flee a stifling suburban lifestyle and parental restrictions. However, Will stays home to work out his relationship with his pregnant girlfriend, Heather (powerfully sensitive Stelliana Scacco). The former pair looks for meaning in life and try out the freedom and excitement of the city. Tunny quickly gives up on life in the city, joins the military and is shipped off to war. Johnny turns to drugs, with the help of supplier St. Jimmy (ferocious Rebecca Riffle Polito) Struggling to find himself, he tries to connect with Whatsername (sensual Kaity Poschner) and finds a part of himself that he grows to dislike, which slowly destroys the relationship. Boy meets Girl, Boy and Girl do drugs, Boy can't stop doing drugs, Drugs become more important than her, Girl leaves, Boy realizes where he went wrong, Boy goes home.

Tony Heffner as Johnny delivered on all levels. He is a vocal powerhouse. He also lost all of his boyish charm and sensitivity, and replaced it with a smoldering darkness and focused confidence. He leads this musical with gravitas. David Ludick gave Tunny a disquiet charm that was totally engaging. His voice resonated with the material in a very heartfelt way. Handling the transformation of his whole self-was delivered with a textured arc. Will, as played by Dallas Still, presented a resigned enigma that certainly reflected so many that are held back by life choices. His face and body told the story of unfulfilled legacy in a very raw honest way. His vocal quality was hauntingly sober. Going against type, a kinetic Rebecca Riffle Polito is cast as St. Jimmy. She wastes no time talking this banging rock score by the horns and wrestles the rock bull to the ground. With searing looks, she has more balls than the entire male cast put together. A full-out psychotic manipulative performance. And, she throws in some major vocal prowess. 

Stellina Scacco gives us a strong-willed Heather. Great voice, and strong acting choices that don't overplay the moments, but keep them based in reality. Whatsername, as played by Kaity Poschner, first appears framed in her own beauty, and then delivers a crystal voice that ethereally wraps us in emotion. She can also break it down and is a perfect partner to fall into the abyss with Johnny. Mary Vaccani brings some beautiful movement and immense flair as she appears within a drug-induced haze as the Extraordinary Girl.

The Mad Company of Players brings all the punk and sass to the yard. Theo - Josh Baum-Shmigel, Declan/Gerard - Lance Still, Chase - Connor Nightingale, Brian/Miguel - Luka Black, Andrew - Aidan Jarosz, and Joshua (Favorite Son) - Frederick Night. The Sisters of the Green Day Hood are Alysha - Erika Kunath, Libby - Julia Abbadini, Leslie Jacy Todorovich, and Francesca - Francesca Marino. These folks bring everything they can to the party. they fill the stage with light, and energy, and the best thing in the world is watching people who can't wait to get back on the stage again. Overall, they kill it.

There is some feedback. The most important one is the sound. Many times the mics aren't turned up enough to hear the lead singers. Solo lines are lost, and sometimes even the lead characters are left probably wondering if their mic is working. This being a rock show with the band on the stage, we already know it is going to be loud, so I don't know what the feedback level is within the theatre, but crank that vocal up! There are a couple moments where the lighting is off a bit for solos. St. Jimmy is left in the dark when she is on top of the scaffolding when she comes down the center, and Heffner was smart enough to stay in his light when he moved, and the spot didn't go with him. Also, this show is demanding, so I did notice when a few folks were not 150% throwing everything they had into the numbers, and specific movement. I don't think you can give too much of yourselves. For me, the best note from a director is "Could you bring it back a little?", as opposed to, "Are you waiting for Godot? because he's not coming. So MOVE!"

Once again Artistic Director/Director Bruce Orendorf leaves it all on the boards. He has put together a very passionate cast, and also a kick-ass band that tackles this rock score like a rugby team on spring break with an open tab. Music Director Michael Abadini assembled bandmates that know exactly how to bat out of hell this stuff out. His partners in crime are Skylar Keffer and Julian Brill on Guitar, Chris Parsons on Bass Guitar, Nate Taylor on Drums/Percussion, and Abbadini covers the keyboard. Choreographer Jen Justice is perfectly in tune with the hang banging approach to the raucous, and also has the polish to give the Extraordinary Girl ( smooth Mary Vaccani) some beautiful moves to execute, which is done with immense flair. Costume Designer Amy Lence is dead on with the looks and feels, and adds to the tumult of the story. Scenic Designer and  Scenic Artist, KC Crookston and Amanda Fawcett, Lighting Designer Mike Larochelle, Sound Designer Tobias Peltier, Video Editing, and Design team, Bruce Orendorf, Michelle Adamczyk, Julia Abbadini, and Technical Director Myles Rapkin, completely transform the theatre space into a pit of punk stress and video madness. The coordination of Video to the show elements is a fierce touch to this production. Stage Manager Alexis Mcnicol called a great show.

This is a very impressive show for a community theatre to take on, and execute. There is so much competition in our area, it is getting tougher and tougher to cast. Orendorf did a great job bringing this show to life, and you can tell the cast as bonded and is ready to give everything they have. 

With two theatres that have shared the same building for years, and then deciding to try to come together to form one cohesive artistic vision, I am sure there is bound to be friction. There always is when artistic temperments mesh. But I hope both entities know that the compromise of ideas and engaging performances will result in everyone benefiting from a unique vision and most importantly, the outreach to a diverse community. Even a blended approach will greatly enhance the opportunities for the community and the performers to grow in an ever challenging cathartic process that we all share. Be proud of what you have done here. Compromise is not a bad word. It is the best of both worlds. 

Cleveland Stage Alliance
Ticket Information
and Promotional Materials

Through May 13


7:30pm Thursdays
7:30pm Fridays
7:30pm Saturdays
2pm Sundays

$15 General Admission

(440) 526-6436

The Brecksville Theatre
49 Public Square