Don’t Wanna Be an American Idiot? Then See This Show

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Two Decades passed before the Who’s Tommy made its way from its 1969 debut on vinyl to Broadway. The path for American Idiot, the 2004 Grammy-winning album by Green Day, was worlds faster. On March 13 the stage musical adaptation of the quasi-punk opus descends on the Ahmanson Theatre, having completed its New York run (which garnered two Tony awards) in 2010. The show follows three alienated young lads from the George W. Bush era. Will stays home with his pregnant girlfriend, slumping into booze and depression, while Johnny and Tunny leave suburban angst behind for heroin-induced big-city delusions and the ravages of war. Green Day riffs give these bleak proceedings not just forward propulsion but buoyancy. (If you’re more in the mood for vapid feel-good anthems, Rock of Ages is at the Pantages March 20 to 25.) For those of us who raised American Idiot-obsessed teenagers in the mid-’00s, the production—despite all its darkness—is already the stuff of nostalgia.

Photograph by Doug Hamilton

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Leibowitz has written major profiles of Eli Broad, Rick Caruso, and Charlton Heston, among other subjects, for Los Angeles. He received his master’s degree from Columbia University Journalism School, where he was the recipient of the magazine writer award. The City and Regional Magazine Association named his account of convicted “eco-terrorist” Billy Cottrell as one of the best features of 2006. He has written for The Atlantic, Smithsonian, Men’s Journal, the Guardian, Time Asia, Money, BusinessWeek, and The New York Times.