If Broadway shows were rated in terms of volume alone, Green Day's "American Idiot," now on stage at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, would win every Tony award in sight.
Strident, confrontational and ear-splittingly raucous, this story of three young men breaking out of their suburban cocoon in different, equally unsatisfying directions would be a powerful statement of virulent discontent – if only its lyrics could be ascertained over the thundering din of the onstage band.
Every generation, it seems, has its own form of protest, whether it be the military draft ("Hair") or economic deprivation ("Rent"). The dissatisfied youths of "American Idiot" only yearn to escape their humdrum small-town life, and they do so with orchestral accompaniment at full volume, drowning out the impact of co-creator Billie Joe Armstrong's impassioned lyrics.
Despite this critical downside, the three principal actors manage to make their presence felt, particularly Van Hughes as Johnny, who encounters a life of drug-fueled desperation in the big city. Hughes' chilling descent into the hell of heroin addiction is brutally depicted, as is his fervent romance with a girl known only as Whatsername (Gabrielle McClinton).