On Wednesday at New York's St. James Theatre, previews finally began on [artist id="988"]Green Day[/artist]'s long-in-the-works "American Idiot" musical, which bowed last year at Berkeley Repertory Theater and then underwent some tinkering before making its way to Broadway.
And even for a band that's toured the world, sold millions of albums and seen pretty much everything, the Great White Way was a tad bit intimidating.
"We're kind of overwhelmed a little bit about it being on Broadway, to be honest," frontman Billie Joe Armstrong smiled. "I mean, there are so many superstitions about when you put on a stage production. ... When we were at Berkeley Rep, we did an eight-week run, and it got extended. And then it got accepted here, and this is where you want to be."
Previews of "Idiot" run until April 20, when it will open officially. It's been a fairly whirlwind process, one that the guys never imagined they'd be a part of when they first started their three-chord assault way back in 1987. But in reality, a stage version of their mega-successful 2004 album isn't that much of a leap for them.
"Back then, we never thought we'd be doing this. But the thing about growing up in a punk community, you're always exposed to different kinds of artists — whether it's through fanzines or people in bands — there's a lot of different individuals who are around," Armstrong explained. "It's not just a bunch of people moshing and stage-diving and stuff like that. There's a lot of different kinds of people. It's political, it's funny, so I think there are different characters you run into. So, we didn't think about Broadway or having a musical or anything like that, but the fact that it's here now, you look at the curve of our career, and it makes sense. Especially after making American Idiot."
Make no mistake about it, the Broadway version of "Idiot" is a far cry from the kind of stuff many people associate with big-budget theater.
"This isn't a rated-PG sort of affair. And that's the difference," Armstrong said. "On Broadway, there's a lot of different things that are happening that people sort of have these misconceptions about. Like, I saw this play 'Next to Normal,' or, like, 'Spring Awakening' — both of those deal with really heavy, current themes ... so, I think our world and the Broadway world coming together, it's kind of amazing."
And at the end of the day, the guys in Green Day aren't worried about their play sticking out like a proverbial punk thumb. It may be based on a wide-ranging, politically charged concept album, but there's a story buried beneath it all, one about love and loss, the kind of things any audience can relate to.
"I remember when we were in Berkeley, I remember seeing this sort of older woman — she had gray hair, and she was kind of almost in a walker — and she was saying 'Is this a musical about a rock band?' She had no idea. All she wanted to do was come to the theater. And that was a trip," Armstrong laughed. "And for our fans, they're just crazy people anyway. I always look at people in a Green Day shirt, and I think, 'What's wrong with that person? What kind of hang-ups does that person have?' Obviously, it's not just the catchy songs, it goes deeper than that. And I think that's the heart of 'American Idiot,' it goes deeper than just politics, there's a story line behind it. There's an emotion behind it."
Do you plan to see "American Idiot" on Broadway? What's your favorite rock musical? Share your thoughts below.