Yesterday (Sunday July 23, 2023), I went off on a little adventure. Last week, Ghostlight Theatre invited me to visit them at the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts in Fond du Lac as they presented the musical based on Green Day’s American Idiot album. Well I wasn’t familiar with Ghostlight although I had seen them on social media and I wasn’t familiar with the Sadoff Center either…and sadly I probably hadn’t visited Fond du Lac in a decade or more. And although I was aware the American Idiot was a very successful and award winning musical, I hadn’t really taken much notice of it. So I was intrigued and once I confirmed which date worked in my schedule, off I went to Fondy!
I really want to talk about Ghostlight’s presentation of American Idiot rather than the musical’s book, so I am just going to allow their press release to fill us in on the background:
The two-time Tony Award-winning hit musical Green Day’s AMERICAN IDIOT, based on the Grammy Award-winning multi-platinum album, boldly takes the American musical where it’s never gone before. This high-octane show includes every song from Green Day’s album, AMERICAN IDIOT, as well as several songs from its follow-up release, 21ST CENTURY BREAKDOWN.
Johnny, Tunny and Will struggle to find meaning in a post-9/11 world. When the three disgruntled men flee the constraints of their hometown for the thrills of city life, their paths are quickly estranged when Tunny enters the armed forces; Will is called back home to attend to family responsibilities, and Johnny’s attention becomes divided by a love interest and a hazardous new friendship. An energy-fueled rock opera, AMERICAN IDIOT, features little dialogue and instead relies on the lyrics from Green Day’s groundbreaking album to tell the story.
But just a side note on the musical itself before we get into the fun: the quote says “features little dialogue” and I did find that a little disconcerting and didn’t always follow the story line via just the songs. Maybe if I was a little more familiar with Green Day’s catalog that might not have been an issue.
The Sadoff theater space has a beautiful proscenium arch stage with all of the classic plaster decoration common in classic theater settings. But dare say, given the number of cast members and the variety of settings, they needed additional action space. So a thrust stage was added out front with an orchestra pit smack dab in the center where the rock band worked to bring us all of the sounds of the original songs! And around the stage additional small settings gave us bedrooms, family rooms, ladders for emphasis, and a great back wall for projection of various videos that help illustrate the story.
And before I go further: the photos are from rehearsals and don’t do justice to the costuming and makeup that the performers wore during the actual presentation. I don’t have an attribution for the people involved with makeup and costuming but they deserve a lot of credit for putting us in the feel and mood of the era depicted in American Idiot. Bravo!
Editor’s Note 7/25/23: I found out this morning that the cast did their own hair and makeup…which was just amazing…and I am sure that experience added to their understanding and development of their character(s).
And a big WOW for director Christian Fleming. This would be a big cast to direct in any play, but even more complex in a non-stop musical like American Idiot. From the ensemble opener singing the title song, through any number of ensemble pieces, to duets, and solos, and small song circles, the songs seldom stop except for intermissions…or a few moments of dialogue presented as vlogs or asides by a lead character here or there…so the large stage was a necessity and put to very good use.
And the young cast didn’t miss a beat or a note. How they kept up the pace for essentially two hours (with a brief intermission) is amazing. But they did!! And these songs are NOT simple to sing and can challenge any vocalist’s range, particularly when they are trying to act and move about the stage or participate in the often complex choreography of the ensemble pieces! It was a pleasure to visit a smaller regional theater and find such talent and professionalism on stage! And this is a challenging piece…for anyone to take on…and I enjoyed it immensely.
And here is the cast list, again stolen from the theater’s press release:
Joe Gallo, Liam Ledford and Danny Slattery play Johnny, Tunny and Will. The cast also includes Lydia Rose Eiche Ross at St. Jimmy; Kendra Krouth as Heather; Betsy Katschke as Extraordinary Girl, and Eulalia Marie Carriveau as Whatsername. Ryan Bartley, Summer Feil, Jazz Leinweber, Alyson Nordstrom and Eugene Strei fill out the cast.
It will interesting to watch to see what Ghostlight Theater will offer next. They obviously have no fear about presenting difficult or challenging plays or musicals. And sometime in the future, I’d like to provide our readers with a bit more background on Ghostlight Theatre and their history!
Ghostlight Theatre was founded in 2021 and produces 1-2 shows a year. For more information, go to www.facebook.com/ghostlighttheatrecoWI