Saturday, July 16, 2016

Last of the American Girls/She's a Rebel

That's refreshing.

The comment yesterday from a music impresario when I mentioned I didn't have a cell phone could also apply to today's 96 degree weather, a veritable cold front after yesterday's triple digits.

Even more refreshing, though, is that there's a theater in town where I can see a rollicking millennial deconstruction of a theatrical dinosaur such as "Seven Bride for Seven Brothers," and then just two nights later, a 21st century rock opera like Green Day's "American Idiot.

On the very same stage.

Yo, Firehouse, you are nailing this whole "breaking through" thing magnificently with that kind of variety in programming. Color me impressed.

The show began a tad on the tardy side because they were trying to seat those on the waiting list, which they managed to do, a fact that, when announced, garnered clapping.

"Applause for the waiting list?" artistic director Joel Bassin mused. "Good Friday night crowd!" He explained that they had chosen to cast the play with people who could play their instruments, sing and act rather than use a band and actors (I ask you, does it get any more DIY/punk than that?), which turned out to be far easier to do in this talent-filled town than anyone anticipated.

Like the other night's production of "Seven Brides," a surprisingly large number of people in attendance were first-timers, testament, perhaps, to the appeal of mixing things up.

My fellow Green Day fan and I were not among the Firehouse virgins.

Bassin then warned us things were going to get loud, as if a pop-punk rock opera about disaffected youth during the Bush administration and early stages of Iraqi involvement could have been anything else.

And it was very much a rock opera, and in true operatic form, there was almost no dialog beyond a video screen of Johnny's occasional messages home to his Mom, with a recurring theme: "I forgot to shower. Again."

Hey, it happens.

Although the only Green Day album I own is 1994's "Dookie," so many of the songs from 2004's "American Idiot" were familiar and the record unfolded in a clear-cut story line about dreams deferred and lessons learned with bad experiences.

Growing up, in other words, and I actually recall just how mature Green Day seemed all at once when they stopped complaining about how boring suburban life was and dove into addressing the ills of the larger world.

They all have to grow up someday, don't they?

It was an energetic production and from our seats in the front row, we could see well-earned sweat glistening off every face. There's nothing like watching youthful exuberance explode off furniture or spring up on a platform as tall as they are, but props also go to lone Baby Boomer Starlet Knight for holding her own among the flannel set.

Being so close to the action also meant that when a member of the ensemble was showing off his sweaty bicep mid-song, I was one of the people he offered it to.

Squeeze 'em if you get offered 'em, I always say.

Everything about the production worked, from the rock solid casting to the actors trading off instruments - including drums and violins - to the pure emotion they were putting out to the audience.

We couldn't have been the only ones wowed by the synergy of it all.

Central to the story was how the events of September 11th defined a young generation (the production's director was then in 7th grade...ouch) and when video screens showed footage of the twin towers being hit, I couldn't look. My younger seatmate, though, couldn't look away, especially when angles were being shown that he'd never seen before.

Some things you (okay, I) never need to see again.

Regardless of where a person falls on the Green Day spectrum, the production sucks you back to teenage universality, when life is either flippin' fantastic or absolutely as crappy as it can be and nothing matters.

Because that's how teen-aged minds and hormones work, at least until they get a little seasoning.

And, speaking of such things, entering the ladies' room during intermission, I found myself behind two chatty young women. One was relating a story about her actions that mystified her friend. "Who are you?" she asked incredulously.

Walking toward a newly-vacant stall, the young woman said over her shoulder, "I'm still trying to figure that out."

It takes years, I interjected, as if I were part of the conversation and they both smiled at me with what looked like gratitude.

And if you can turn that experience into a work of art, say an album or a rock opera (maybe a book?), nobody will care whether or not you shower. Really.

I feel certain Green Day will back me up on this one.

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