Honestly, the last thing on my mind was, Oh shit, St. Jimmy is being played by a woman! It didn’t matter. And another “honestly” moment, I was really excited to see what Melissa Etheridge could to do as St. Jimmy. I wasn’t (and am still not) familiar with her work as a musician but I’d been told she has a better voice than both Billie Joe Armstrong and Tony Vincent, and she looked awesome [as fuck] in her costume, so I was optimistic.
The house was packed and the audience was enthusiastic. There was a lot of energy as Van Hughes was going through his pre-St. Jimmy monologue, and some clapping with the beat (which I hate because although it amps up the cast, it messes up the musicians). Etheridge has an awesome entrance but she was completely off the beat during the first few measures. It really threw the song off, but she recovered finished the song. She sounded amazing during Last Night on Earth, and especially nailed it in Know Your Enemy.
Her character choices were pretty standard and the norm except the one part that stuck out to me was the moment she had with Johnny before When It’s Time. She gave him the heroin and then watched him throw it to the side and sing to Whatshername. Watching how a woman chose to react to this moment was entirely different than watching how Tony Vincent or Billie Joe Armstrong reacted to this moment. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, right? This was the one instance where the gender made a difference. Etheridge sang Know Your Enemy because she was being rejected rather than only the addiction of heroin being rejected.
While Etheridge has a powerful and amazing voice, I think the main problem with Etheridge was her energy level. She’s a country rock singer and performer, not a punk rock singer and performer and that just makes a huge difference in the pacing of the show. As a result, the show felt a bit slower tonight. You also barely noticed her exiting the stage during Letterbomb which although it was different, it was also fine. I think the audience is supposed to be focused on Whatshername and her punkette troupe rather than St. Jimmy’s exits. Billie Joe Armstrong can’t help it if eyes follow him where ever he goes on stage. I also liked hearing the songs transposed into new keys, and they sounded great.
A side note about Van Hughes: I saw him as Johnny during the summer and he’s definitely gotten more comfortable, physically, in the role since then. His voice is great (less nasal than John Gallagher Jr.), and his guitar playing is crisp and clean. Half of his monologues were well executed and believable, while the other half were extremely unbelievable and poorly delivered. Jason Kappus, the new male swing, is also very fun to watch. All I could think, though, was, Damn, you have nice arms but they need a few tattoos. The rest of the cast was in full working order.
I think this was an extremely creative bit of stunt casting, not to mention extremely brave. While things certainly could have been worse, they definitely could’ve been better too. If you venture to see Etheridge this week, keep an open mind to the fact that you’re not seeing Billie Joe Armstrong in the role and I think you’ll be more likely to enjoy her performance. February 1st, 2011
Watch Good Riddance from tonight’s performance here.