If U2 can bring Spider-Man to Broadway, then why can’t [artist id="988"]Green Day[/artist] do the same for the Jesus of Suburbia, St. Jimmy and Whatsername? Those characters, and likely a few more, will make their stage debut in September when the East Bay-bred punk trio debut a new musical production adapted from their American Idiot album at the Berkeley Repertory Theater in California.
The 12-million-selling, Grammy-winning 2004 album will be transformed for the stage by the group and Tony-winning “Spring Awakening” director Michael Mayer at the same theater that launched last year’s hit rock musical, “Passing Strange.” According to a press release from GD’s label, the show will feature all the songs from the album, as well as several new tunes from the band’s upcoming follow-up, 21st Century Breakdown, due out May 15. (The video for Breakdown‘s first single, “Know Your Enemy,” premieres on MTV on April 24.)
“We are really excited to be working with Michael Mayer on this project,” Green Day singer/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong said in a statement. “We’d been thinking of bringing American Idiot to the stage, but knew we needed to find the right partners. After meeting with Michael to discuss the possibility, he invited us to see ‘Spring Awakening.’
“We were so impressed with that production, as well as his vision for American Idiot, that we knew we’d found the perfect collaborator. Plus, doing it in our hometown at Berkeley Rep was an obvious bonus. They’re an amazing theater group, very adventurous, and their willingness to take chances is in keeping with the spirit of the album. The end result will be terrific, and we’re really proud.”
The show is slated to run from September 4 through October 11 as the first production in the theater’s 2009-2010 season. The album tells the story of a group of working-class characters from the suburbs who search for salvation in a world filled with dead ends, broken dreams and doomed love affairs. The high-energy show will feature an onstage band playing along with an ensemble of 19 young performers.
“When I first heard American Idiot, I was struck by its innate theatricality,” Mayer said in a statement. “Here was a new musical drama begging to be staged. Who would have thought that one of the most brutally honest, eloquent, passionate, funny and poetic theatrical responses to the post 9-11 world would be a Green Day record? The connection I felt to American Idiot surprised me. I knew and liked Green Day, but had no clue that I would ever feel so inside their songs. This work of passion and vision and fierce intelligence seemed to me like the heartbeat of a generation of Americans who were fed up. I hear in these amazing songs the articulation of their frustration, anger, longing for a better world — a journey from apathy to action. Collaborating with Billie Joe and the band is a mind-blowing thrill.”
Mayer told the New York Times that the show would likely follow the three central characters and that though it is too soon to contemplate a possible Broadway run, it’s not out of the question.
Though Armstrong admitted that the unexpected collaboration with Mayer “doesn’t make a lot of sense,” that’s exactly what he’s so excited about. “When people see it, it’s going to be my wildest dream.”
With the staging of Idiot and Breakdown, Armstrong said the band — which also includes bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool — has measured up to one of its idols, the Who, whose concept album, Tommy, has played on Broadway and whose Quadrophenia is due to open as a stage musical in England in May.
In fact, Armstrong told the Times, the Idiot musical might even signal the point at which Green Day surpass another major influence, punk icons the Clash, whose own high-concept albums such as London Calling and the three-disc Sandinista, never made it to the theater.
“I guess maybe we’re a bit more fruity than the Clash,” Armstrong suggested.