American Idiot The Musical @ QPAC Review

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Some of my fondest and most vivid memories are those of singing along to American Idiot in the backseat of mum’s car alongside my brother, back when the song was first released in 2004. Now 13 years on, that song, and the 12 others of Green Day’s highly-esteemed ‘American Idiot’ are still some of the most influential and well-recognised pop-punk tracks of all time. More recently, however, the award-winning record was adapted for the theatre by Green Day frontman Billy Joe Armstrong himself, and was elaborated into a powerful production which resultantly featured heavily on both West End and Broadway, season after season.

Now for the first time on Australian shores, the theatre adaptation opened at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre to a mixed crowd. An array of musical lovers and pop-punk diehards collided, with a clash of Dr. Martens and eyeliner among the stilettos and collared shirts you come to expect in the Playhouse theatre. As a Green Day and musical fan, and my boyfriend an even bigger Green Day one, it seemed only fit to purchase tickets for the show as his Christmas present (kudos to me; a present we could both enjoy!), and we’d been waiting ever-so patiently for the opening night to arrive. And, we certainly weren’t disappointed.

The performance was surprisingly opened with the house lights up, as we met the characters of the show one by one. They tuned into the day’s breaking news, watching as political wars and real wars unfolded on their television sets. Minutes later, and without so much as a 1-2-3-4, the high-octane musical kicked into gear with the classic American Idiot punchy riff. From there, the audience were taken on a whirlwind of rock and roll, dance numbers, and emotional letters from lead rocker Johnny.

American Idiot The Musical follows the story of the three characters developed within Green Day’s punk rock opera album; Johnny (Ben Bennett) alongside his alter ego St. Jimmy (portrayed by the ever-rocking Chris Cheney of The Living End), as well as Johnny’s two best mates Will (Alex Jeans) and Tunny (Cameron MacDonald). The audience followed the trio’s journey, through the demeaning reality of a media-saturated society, the trials and tribulations of their disillusionment with the world, and naturally the friendships, rage, and love along the way.

Presented by shake & stir and QPAC, American Idiot The Musical was undoubtedly one of the most impressive musical productions I’ve ever seen, if not the most impressive live performance of anything I’ve ever seen. From beginning to end, the performance was full-throttle, and without a doubt showcased the talent of not only the cast but also the playwright. A personal highlight for myself was Ben Bennett’s portrayal of Johnny, who provided a seamless mixture of imperfect, yet totally believable vocals and stellar emotive performances. Though he mostly surprised us with the sheer number of times he could undress and redress onstage! After reading countless feature interviews with lead role holders Chris Cheney and Phil Jamieson prior to opening night, I can say that an interview with the real star would not have gone astray.

Fully aware that I can’t complete this review without discussing the obvious, I must say that Chris Cheney’s portrayal of the evil and manipulative St. Jimmy was outstanding. And, despite often opposing the casting of superstars among regular cast, I can say that for a musical of American Idiot, casting one of Australia’s most recognisable rockers could not make more sense. I’m just jealous of those who get to witness Phil Jamieson’s portrayal during in the season!

Another highlight for me was the spectacular vocals and dancing performances by the four females within the cast. In particular, the Extraordinary Girl, played by the extremely talented Rowena Vilar, wowing us all with mesmerising aerial acrobatics while suspended from the ceiling, with spectacularly angelic vocals all the while.

After eagerly awaiting the night ever since the show was announced, I can safely say I’d highly recommend the show to anyone wanting to relive their mid-2000s punk-rock selves, or even just for an absolutely rocking night out. If the audience’s double standing ovation is anything to go by, it’s a show not to miss!

★★★★★

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Hearty Hemingway

I have never been to Teneriffe as it’s one suburb which is not only out of the way for me, being westward in Ashgrove, but has always seemed a little too commercial to really immerse into cafes and such.

This morning English boy and his family (and me in tow) headed to his brother’s local cafe, Hemingway, and I was suitably impressed.

The decor, the natural woods and metallic details, the homeliness and the local vibe all made for a beautiful morning. Though it was absolutely pouring down outside, inside felt cozy, snug and was completely sheltered. Staff seemed busy but served with a smile and prices were reasonable, considering the location.

I ordered myself my typical – hot chocolate and a breakfast channeling Ron Swanson, i.e. all the bacon and eggs they had in. After eyeing off the french toast and accompanying ice-cream, I settled for their eggs-your-way, scrambled (is there any other way?) and an extra side of bacon.

The eggs were outstanding – that light, cooked just enough (but not too much) for deliciousness, sour dough toasted to perfection and bacon to die for. So what more could you really want? Let’s be honest, I would have loved a little hash brown on the side, but for those that know me, know that I eat hash browns like they’re the only food on the planet.

My hot chocolate, though always slightly disappointing when they come in a glass (particularly not double-walled) was superb – frothy and delectable, with the little marshmallows resting on my spoon to nibble on. The rest of the family ordered coffees and got a little chocolate freckle on their spoon, which I would have loved, though marshmallows certainly suit the hot chocolate vibe far more.

If not for the distance across to Teneriffe, Hemingway Cafe is the kind of cafe I would frequent if not almost reside in. If you’re in the area, or fancy a trip along the river on the CityCat, it’s one cozy cafe that is a joy to spend the morning in.

My ‘local’, The Grove

In the midIMG_9837dle of Ashgrove, The Grove bar has been on my to-do list of bars and eateries ever since moving back to Brisbane over six months ago. The quaint, vintage-style bar and adjoining restaurant is a quick stop-off from the grocery giants next door, but is certainly no carbon-copy of the chains around it.

For English Boy’s official birthday date night, we walked the quiet streets of Ashgrove and headed to The Grove to grab a few celebratory drinks and something to nibble on. The local name, in itself, perfectly encompasses its definite ‘local’ atmosphere. With a warming, homely feel, the unique downstairs bar had an exciting familiarity and comfortability, even though we’d never set foot in the place. Everyone not only seemed local, but The Grove perfectly combines the features anyone could want at their ‘local’. There were options for both indoor and outdoor seating perfect for the whirlwind that is Queensland’s climate and weather, quite a pleasant surprise of comfortable seating, a range of delicious yet easy on the wallet meal options and most importantly friendly staff.

Although there were few tables to be seen without ‘reserved’ signs (yes, we forgot to book), the staff not only catered for us, but for a large group outside and an even larger inside gathering of family and friends for a 21st birthday. The bar was quickly filled with young 20-somethings and bustling after-work drinkers, however, we were served in a timely and friendly manner. Our order, a deliciously meaty pizza and side of chips, appeared quickly after ordering and were undoubtedly fantastic.

I can safely say that I’ll be returning to the bar – if for nothing else than its convenience. But luckily for them, when I return, it will also be for the great atmosphere and delicious food.

My first trip to GOMA

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I’m going to come right out and say it… I am not arty. I don’t know the first thing about the Renaissance, Impressionism or any of the other countless -isms of the art history timeline. I took high school art until it was no longer a required subject, and boy was I terribly disinterested and talentless. So it should come as no surprise that I’ve been a Brisbane and Sunshine Coast girl my entire life and I still had not been to the Gallery of Modern Art. GOMA was a place I’d seen many of my friends visit and appear to have a pleasant time, and ever since it’s been on my Brisbane to-do list. So, I dragged myself and English Boy (kicking and screaming) to visit Brisbane’s most modern and talked about art.

I should first establish that my lack of interest and knowledge in visual arts deems me absolutely no right to accurately or academically critique the works I saw that miserably rainy Brisbane morning. Though, I couldn’t help but simply be bored with the overall experience. In and out of the building within an hour, leaving as confused about art as I was when I entered.

Unfortunately, most of the works felt sporadically and confusingly placed in a fairly illogical order and layout. I felt as though most were nothing spectacular, and rarely ignited sparks of intrigue for me. There were the odd one or two paintings which wow-ed me, however, for the most part I just didn’t quite understand anything (though that’s probably no fault of the gallery).

That being said, I can’t deny that the majority of the works were modern. Though what I can say is that there were a few too many video footage playbacks and not enough visitor involvement, of which I had preconceived was all part of the GOMA experience. I wanted to immerse myself in art – not just look at it. That is modernity. Unfortunately, perhaps, we went at the wrong time of year, or when there simply wasn’t anything of that calibre to provide, but it did leave a disappointing taste in my mouth – much like the caesar salad I had today, with too much lettuce and not enough parmesan and bacon.

All this aside, I no doubt will revisit at some point, who knows whether that will be when I am craving air-conditioning on another scorching Queensland summer day, or if a user-friendly exhibit pops up and sparks my interest. For now, I think it might be a good idea to stick with the art forms I can interpret and understand – dance, music and writing.