American Idiot…
March 9, 2018

In the lobby, I suggested some upcoming productions that could go onto our list for future evenings in the theatre. I recommended Red Stitch’s Colder or Melancholia at the Malthouse. One of my companions commented that she does not like to feel depressed when she goes to the theatre.

American Idiot,
Comedy Theatre, Melbourne, March 8, 2018…

All over the darkened set, televisions flicker to life, displaying images of the reign of President Trump: this production will clearly have a new focus of rage from that beneath Green Day’s original American Idiot album, though throughout the show the production uses projections directly onto the set to carry the album’s message of televised political propaganda.

American Idiot cast, photo by Ken LeanforeThe stage adaptation of the story apparently beneath the American Idiot album expands upon the kind of bleak imagery of the Boulevard Of Broken Dreams video clip, but unlike the stylised video, plays it straight. There aren’t a lot of laughs in this show. Rebellious outcasts head from their ‘Make America Great Again’-cap wearing community with dreams of a new life in the city, only to be thwarted by drug addiction, unplanned pregnancy and the seduction of government propaganda.

Nevertheless, the cast and musicians perform the soundtrack well within a simple but effective set, and seeing the songs performed in this way feels a lot like a new, live take on the long form music video. It feels more devoted to its source than other jukebox musical tributes, like We Will Rock You, which can seem like commercial afterthoughts (though I’ve seen quality productions.) Green Day fans should appreciate the experience.

For others, the plot could prove too heavy to enjoy. The three main characters are hard to empathise with, whilst we are left to wonder about the exploits of their female counterparts in the meantime. It is a shame, because some of the talent in those roles shine – Phoebe Panaretos as ‘Whatsername’ in particular brought an unexpected take to Green Day’s music with her vocals reminiscent of Anastacia. Kaylah Attard was also impressive in the unfortunately fleeting role of the nurse, ‘Extraordinary Girl.’

Themes like those explored on stage in American Idiot aren’t new to musical theatre any more (the set and story are kind of reminiscent of Rent – there is even a scene where characters are filmed on stage and projected,) Green Day fans will enjoy being able to sing along and Sarah McLeod in the rotating role of ‘St Jimmy’ this evening elicited well-deserved cheers from the moment she appeared and stalked the stage menacingly. Those unfamiliar with the source material looking for a new musical to enjoy might leave feeling overwhelmed by the grim tone, though some of the big cast numbers like Jesus Of Suburbia are enjoyable, despite the tone.  Hopefully the next Green Day musical can draw inspiration from Warning and capture the punk rebellion with a brighter tone to capture both audiences.  Or maybe that is just wishful thinking…

Green Day’s American Idiot runs in Melbourne until March 11, then moves to QPAC Playhouse in Brisbane from April 13 to 21, and Darwin’s Entertainment Centre from May 4 to 6.

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Magic Dirt’s Adalita
September 11, 2008

Magic Dirt

In a local music scene where bands are often over before they really have a chance to begin, Magic Dirt are renowned for their long history, and respected for their genre-defying diversity and extended tours playing to fans from one end of the country to the other. With just such a tour currently underway on the back of latest album Girl, Magic Dirt’s Adalita spoke to Buzz during one of the few weeks off, noting that even during breaks in the tour schedule, ‘We’re busy little bees.’

‘There’s still a lot going on in the middle of organising a lot of things,’ Adalita says, noting the various projects Magic Dirt are involved in aside from playing regional shows, and the usual capitals. ‘As a part of this tour we’ve got about five or six workshops where we go into high schools, or we put on workshops for high school aged students plus any community members who are interested in coming along.’

The band have particularly enjoyed taking the workshops, which include discussions about their experience in the music industry and conclude with a performance, to schools in regional areas, where live music is not always easily accessible.

‘We just did one at the State High School in Bundaberg, and they were like “We never get anything like this,”’ Adalita says of a memorable workshop. ‘They were really excited and had lots of valid questions… They even helped carry the stuff to the car. And the teachers are equally as excited. The teacher at the Bundaberg school was a massive fan.’

With the broad age-range of fans reflected in the school visit, I wondered if concert audiences were also made up of a mix of new faces and those who might have gone through high school themselves listening to the band.

‘I don’t think we’d still be around unless we had the new faces. We’ve got young fans, old fans… the in-between fans. It’s sort of a constant stream of different people. I think the one thread that links most of our fans is that they’re very passionate and loyal and they’re very dedicated to Magic Dirt…’ Adalita speaks fondly of the fan-base, and reflects for a second. ‘Once they’re in, they’re in for the long haul.’

And that loyalty has paid off. After breaking away from major label backing and forming their own independent Emergency Music label, the first priority for the band was creating a limited and exclusive EP of covers and live recordings for distribution at their shows. ‘Now we’ve got a second instalment that we’re putting together,’ Adalita promises.

Support acts for their shows have been personally selected by Magic Dirt, after placing a call for submissions on the website. Adalita said that the result was ‘a constant waterfall of CDs,’ and adds ‘we’ve come across some really cool bands through the competition. It’s been good for us, because we’ve got a little database now of bands from regional areas, and the capitals too, that we can just ring up and say “Do you want a show? We’re coming to town.”’

With Girl covering a wide range of musical styles, from the pop rock of ‘Romy’ to sounds more consistent with the experimental styling of the Roky’s Room album, it is easy to wonder what a Magic Dirt show might sound like. Adalita promises that their shows will remain ‘big and ballsy and stompy and sweaty and raw. The live shows are always loud, because of the nature of the way we play, which is loud, fuzzy rock ‘n’ roll.’

Girl is out now. Magic Dirt are touring until December, with details available at www.magicdirt.com.

From Buzz Magazine, September 2008.