A new musical has opened on Broadway based on an album by Green Day, the post-punk band known for belligerent, fast-paced hits like American Idiot -- the title of the show.
Naming a musical after Green Day’s most insulting song had to win it attention from the U.S. media. And so it did -- the other day on Good Morning America the production's cast was seen in Central Park leaping around an outdoor stage, punching the air and lip-synching for an appreciative crowd.
It was classic musical theatre – a bunch of wholesome actors in their late twenties, playing a bunch of teenaged miscreants, minus any of the real anger of the band or its era. The televised excerpt lacked only tone-deaf Broadway musical fan Rosie O’Donnell playing a crusty NYC cop to be classified as pure kitsch.
The performance had about the same cool quotient as Up With People, circa 1975. According to Reuters, critics largely agreed that the musical itself “lacks punk cred, edge and originality,” but was still a pretty good time. In other words, there wasn’t much else happening on Broadway in July, 2010. New York magazine called the show “a dizzyingly miscalculated adaptation of the album (American Idiot),” adding “Its version of youthful anomie is so far off the mark … that the effect is almost comical. But mostly just irritating.”
“Gosh, though – it’s musical theatre. How bad can it be?” you might innocently ask. You’d understand the magazine’s cranky viewpoint if you’d ever been to the Calgary Stampede. There, the grinning performers who dominate the Grandstand Show, which takes place after the chuckwagon races and before the fireworks, are unforgivably called The Young Canadians.
Reviewing the Grandstand Show used to be, and probably still is, the most hated assignment of the year for Calgary Herald arts reporters. The task was always given to the writer with the least tenure, which for many years was yours truly. The hate mail the newspaper got after every frank review, no matter who wrote it, was well earned. The critic who took over after me got so much negative feedback that the publisher told her, “You killed Lassie!”
But I digress. As Stanley points out, real hipsters don’t go to Broadway musicals like American Idiot, just as Puerto Rican gang members didn’t make a bee-line for West Side Story when it first opened. Still, Stanley figures, if washed-out imitations of crabby anarchistic teens are appearing on Broadway these days, one could make a bundle by turning just about anything into a musical. HST: The Musical, A Travesty of Canadian Proportions, starring Martin Short as Bill Vander Zalm, might only open in Saskatoon -- but then again, something has to.
Stanley and I don’t know much about the HST. So we've decided to write a musical about what we do know – our own glorious, scintillating, glamorous life together.
Our musical, Lynn Valley Life, will be a comedy, naturally, but every comedy must have its poignant moments. Our first one will come with the haunting opening ballad, Why Must the Skunks Nest Under Our Deck.
“Why must the skunks nest under our deck?” the Kate character (played by Rosie O’Donnell, of course) will warble plaintively to the Stanley character (Nathan Lane, if he’s not busy) from the decrepit front step of their rustic home, which makes up much of the set. He’ll be leaning up against one post of the sloping deck itself, gazing up at the moon, even though it’s daytime.
“Cuz they do, they do, they dooo,” he’ll respond sweetly.
“What do they do there, fight and neck?” Kate will whine.
“Well, they don’t know kung-fu,” he’ll reply.
The song continues as the two characters assemble a peanut butter and toast trail leading to the tidy, freshly painted deck of their next-door neighbours in hopes of persuading the skunks to nest there. This scene will naturally end with Stanley getting sprayed by the hidden creature to whoops of laughter from the enthralled audience.
After the hilarity of that wears off, their teenaged daughter Petunia (played by Kim Kardashian) will wander onto their home’s ragged suburban lawn with a gaggle of friends, with whom she’ll sing Let’s Sleep in Till Noon. The teens trade jokes about what they’d be doing with their mornings if they actually had to pay rent and such.
“I’d be pumping gas,” one young woman will sing, yawning, rolling her eyes and stretching, still in her outfit from the previous night’s shenanigans.
“I’d be hauling ass!” the bad boy of the group will retort.
“What a waste of time/When we could recline,” Petunia will drawl. The young adults will position themselves on the grass to soak up the sun.
Enter, the Joneses. They’re the neighbours to whom Stanley and Kate wish to donate their skunks. They’re busily mowing their adjacent lawn and re-painting their deck at the same time as they talk to their bosses on their smartphones. Whenever they sing, the Joneses chant – they don’t have time for melodies.
“Moving-up-and-moving-on/That’s-the-Joneses’-constant-song/Flipping-houses-trading-up/No-one-has-a-fuller cup” the four of them mutter as they bustle around their front yard, ignoring Petunia and her snoozing 20-year-old friends. As the Joneses manically work, ignoring all distractions, Kate sneaks, on her hands and knees, between Petunia and the other slumbering giants to make another peanut butter trail to the Joneses’ deck. Unbeknownst to her, Petunia’s friends are snatching the bits of toast as quickly as Kate lays them down.
Onto the stage slides Bart, on his skateboard. The lanky 15-year-old (played by teen heartthrob Justin Bieber) instantly sizes up this embarrassing scene and, pulling his hair in tortured teenaged fashion, faces the audience for his agonized solo.
“What did I do/to deserve this fate/When I could have been born/to William Gates/My mother is weird/My father's worse/I’m victim of/ a Satanic curse.”
As Bart sings, a giant skunk lumbers onto the stage and finds a couple of pieces of peanut butter toast, which it eats. Then it lies down in the middle of the slumbering youths and drifts off to sleep.
Well, that’s as far as we’ve got, but it’s obvious this story has it all – rebellious teens, loser parents, annoying, probably dangerous folks next door. And skunks. It’s the quintessential Canadian musical!
Needless to say, we’re looking for investors.