Having emerged about two decades after the punk rock era began, Green Day was somewhat late to the party. At the time, some asked if the band was only a sort of theatrical representation of the “real” punk bands of the classic period.

Well, as they say, whatever. Such questions really didn’t matter much to most fans when the California power-trio sounded so darn good.

Certainly the band had a theatrical side and, when their mega-album “American Idiot” was released in 2004, the seeds were planted for what became a well-received Broadway show, a rock opera of sorts, the touring company of which Portland Ovations brought to Merrill Auditorium on Thursday night.

With a backdrop highlighted by dozens of embedded TV screens, a sophisticated lighting design, a diverse throng of energetic young singer/dancers and hard-driving music from an onstage band, the show commanded the appreciative crowd’s attention for 90-plus minutes with no intermission.

The story, put together by Green Day singer-songwriter Billie Joe Armstrong and director Michael Mayer, gives Armstrong’s lyrics theatrical life by adapting them to the trials and traumas of three teenage male friends, all adrift and vaguely rebellious in a post-9/11 America.

It mixes political concerns specific to the Bush/Cheney era with more universal themes of alienated youth lost in the bewildering and often repellent first stages of adulthood.


Jared Nepute, Casey O’Farrell and Dan Tracy took the lead roles and each exhibited a fine singing voice as they pushed and pulled their way through situations over which they struggled for control.

Mariah MacFarlane, Olivia Puckett and Taylor Jones played their love interests while Carson Higgins took the role of the sinister St. Jimmy.

The highlights were many. The early “Jesus of Suburbia” medley set the stage, with the boys defiantly chanting “I don’t care if you don’t care.”

But, of course, they were forced to care as each underwent a challenge, whether unplanned parenthood, military service or finding, then losing “the love of your life.”

The guitar-heavy anthems, such as the rousing “21 Guns,” were balanced by much quieter moments, as when Nepute sang “It’s Time” and “Wake Me When September Ends.”

The dynamic shifts were almost jarring in a few spots as things suddenly got very quiet in the large hall. Rarely has the difference between electric and acoustic music been more apparent.


The choreography by Steven Hoggett, especially during “Homecoming,” was very appealing, with motifs very creatively illustrating the inner turmoil the players were experiencing.

An all-together encore of “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” fit perfectly on top of what had been an intentionally ambiguous finale.

All in all this show felt contemporary and hip while also containing that classic Broadway spirit of giving it all you’ve got.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

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