Listening to American Idiot, however, made me think otherwise. I had a hard time understanding the lyrics, let alone the story Green Day was trying to tell, and I couldn't understand how anyone could listen to it and think, "This is a show." I went into American Idiot expecting to have an enjoyable time, see great performances, and listen to some fun music.
I got MUCH more than that.
There's very little dialogue and the songs don't exactly work in a traditionally dramatic way, but there's a real story in American Idiot that ought to be told--and that belongs on Broadway. I kind of feel like the show is what Spring Awakening tries to be, or what a lot of people says it is. But I found that show incredibly frustrating for a lot of reasons, mostly because it kind of sets up rules and then forgets about them, especially in the second act, and because it has such a black-and-white, preachy message.
I expected American Idiot to be similar, but it's not at all. Here, there are very clear rules about what the songs do and about how the characters sing. They very rarely sing directly to each other; they sing about each other, they sing about themselves (in a roundabout way) to the audience, they have ensemble members sing for them. These characters just have such a difficult time expressing themselves and finding basic human connections, which for me is what the show is really about. I love that the show ends with "Whatsername," which captures the essence of the show for me. It's so sad and beautiful and I don't want to spoil it, but it's also not the way I thought the show would end, which I really value.
I was also surprised (in a good way) about the way the women were written. When I heard two of the female characters were named "Whatsername" and "Extraordinary Girl," I was prepared for them to not be full characters, and for the show to be kind of sexist--especially since all three women are girlfriends. I think calling those two characters those names is really misleading, since neither of them actually have those names. Extraordinary Girl isn't flat out called "The Extraordinary Girl," which is what I expected; she's described as being AN extraordinary girl, which is a huge difference. I also really appreciated how Heather, the girlfriend who gets pregnant, is just as in over her head as Tunny is. That storyline was so delicately done, and it could have easily been sexist and heavy-handed.
It was also just amazing to see how staging, (an AMAZING) set, and choreography can come together to tell a story. The score certainly does that, but it didn't do that on its own for me, at least. I needed a visual context for the songs to have meaning. And the creative team of American Idiot provided that beautifully. It's a shame that the score doesn't qualify as original (even though honestly, did JCS or Evita have 50% new material when it was onstage? I don't think so), but I really, really hope it takes Best Musical on Sunday. That's the kind of show that makes me desperate to run home and write.