By now, you’re probably aware that Green Day’s 2004 album American Idiot was a fairly, uh, political affair. And while the Broadway version of the record doesn’t exactly shy away from the topic, it also reveals a side of the music that most probably never realized was there in the first place: the personal.
“I think, politically, American Idiot, when we were writing it, it was trying to make sense out of a big mess,” Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong said. “You’re trying to find something to believe in, but it’s difficult when you’re getting bombarded with useless information. So it’s just [about] trying to find your identity and your individualism in the midst of all that.”
“That’s the political side, but on the personal side, there’s characters in American Idiot that allowed Billie and us to carry those emotions and translate them,” bassist Mike Dirnt added. “And I think that it’s really great. We’ve had those characters, and in the play, [director] Michael Mayer has expanded on that … made a more linear approach to it with adding extra characters and expanding the original story-line concept.”
So while the Broadway reimagining of Idiot is plenty loud and raucous, there’s also more of the softer stuff: the voyage of discovery that three bored teens embark on, the struggle to find themselves in a world gone haywire. It’s the kind of stuff that resonates not just with Armstrong, but with theater-going audiences too — which is sort of the point, if you think about it.
“I think a lot of people weighed really heavy on the ‘American’ side of American Idiot and what it’s like to be an American and what it means when the record came out, so a lot of people were looking towards the political, angry part of it,” Armstrong said. “But I think there is a theme with the characters, it’s about people becoming lost and just trying to find their way, and I think that’s a theme that’s been going through our songs since 1988, and it really kind of manifests itself, you know, with the characters, like Jesus of Suburbia, Whatsername and St. Jimmy. And now, on the stage, that’s really coming across. You’re investing into the characters a lot more and identifying with them.”
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