April 19th, 2010
12:46 PM ET

Green Day's 'American Idiot' on Broadway

Punk rock is coming to Broadway. On April 20, the musical "American Idiot" opens at St. James Theatre.

The production is built lyric-by-lyric upon Green Day's 2004 Grammy Award winning album of the same name. "American Idiot" features 24 young actors singing and dancing their way through ambivalence, rebellion and drug abuse. With a set that seems to hit the roof of the theater and television screens everywhere, the show pulls no punches. Images of President George W. Bush, 9/11 symbolism, and the war in Iraq are all part of "American Idiot."

So is Tony Award winner John Gallagher Jr., who plays Jesus of Suburbia, or Johnny. Johnny and his two friends Will and Tunny are disenfranchised small-town lads unhappily searching for something better. The better for Johnny turns out to be a girl called "Whatsername" and a drug dealer named "St. Jimmy."

This is not "Mary Poppins," - we're talking rock opera, or punk rock opera if you prefer.

As a band, Green Day has comfortably sat in the punk rock spotlight since their formation in 1987, and that history is made blindingly clear as the cast rages on stage through 95 minutes of the Green Day songbook with high octane angst. The lead in this production is definitely the music.

All 13 tracks from the "American Idiot" album are performed in the musical as well as some songs from the band's latest release "21st Century Breakdown," including "21 Guns."

Green Day front man Billie Joe Armstrong wrote the book for the musical with director Michael Mayer, who won the Tony Award for directing "Spring Awakening."

This "American Idiot" is clever, though it goes light on the dialogue and heavy on the music. The narrative clearly relies upon what was going on in Armstrong's head when he wrote the lyrics for these songs. And it works where a punk rock musical with lengthy soliloquies probably wouldn't.

While Green Day themselves do not perform in the show, there is an eight-piece band on stage that does, and they're quite impressive. This is no garage band - after all, this is Green Day on Broadway.

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Filed under: Green Day • Music

soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. R.Dee

    Just saw the show today and WOW!!! I took my 9 year old son with some trepidation, but as HUGE Green Day fans, he had to come. I was in my early thirties working in Lower Manhattan on 9/11 and this show hit me so deep, I was almost in tears in my seat. The symbolism in the scene with everyone looking up toward the ceiling of the theatre was brilliant. It brought me back to 9/11, to being one in the crowd standing on the corner of Broadway and Chambers Street, watching the towers fall. Of course my son didn't get this, and I hope he never in his life has to witness atrocities like the ones I have. Billy Joe, Tre,and Mike, you are geniuses. Through your music and now your show, you are able to speak the words and share the emotions that so many feel but are unable to express. Your words make people feel less isolated hearing that others have the same struggles and fears, our common experiences. It is hard to say anything positive came out of 9/11, but in my beloved city of New York there was this common experience that brought all people closer together. We who were here, whether New Yorker or one of the thousands of people who came to help from other places experienced it. It helped to restore a faith in humanity for many that your final scene represented wonderfully.
    And for the knuckleheads calling Green Day sellouts, there is a difference between a poser and a maturing punk rocker. Green Day is maturing and the older you get, the wiser you get. There is nothing wrong with expanding yourself as an artist. Dumb Down for no one!!! The Philosophy of Freedom, Truth, and Love that they hold will ALWAYS stand strong.

    May 30, 2010 at 3:22 am | Report abuse |
  2. C.K.Darwin

    I love Green Day, but I'm not sure how this Broadway show will stand up to what I'm used to seeing from the band itself. I guess there's only one way to find out; I'll just have to see if for myself!

    April 23, 2010 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
  3. Mouton Noir

    Love Green Day and will forever be a loyal fan! I want to see this musical so badly it almost hurts. :) For those who say Green Day has sold out I say stop being a hater because they are doing what they love and all of us true fans love that they are doing it. Those guys have worked their tails off to make it to where they can give the people great music and still maintain their same rebellious personas. Billie Joe, Mike, and Tre will always be punk rockers and so will I! They are the ones who converted this little black girl into punk and encouraged me to be myself through their songs and I have been on their band wagon ever since. So, BRAVO! WE LOVE YOU GREEN DAY!
    ~Muah~

    April 23, 2010 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  4. Noelle

    My son went and saw this last night and absolutely loved it!!! He said it was fantastic and after the show was over Green Day, who happened to be there last night, came out and played a few songs for the audience!! It was a wonderful experience for my son and his college roomies.

    April 23, 2010 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
  5. thetruth1028

    Green Day never claimed to be punk to begin with..so they can't be "sell outs" ....Billie Joe has always said, "They are what they are". They don't want to be and shouldn't be pigeon holed in to any genre or label. American Idiot is an amazing album. I'm sure it will go down in history as one of the greatest in its era. The musical should be great, too bad they couldn't work in some of their older stuff..

    April 22, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Hunter

    I love that they are doin this!! it may open new doors and it may inspire new bands to do the same! i would also like to see Tommy by The Who in New York, now that would be a rock opera.

    April 21, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jerry

    All those who are able to go see this, I encourage you to. I was able to see this during its run in Berkeley and it is a truly amazing and wonderful show

    April 21, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ECM

    Wow. It's a brilliant musical. And yes, it is extremely light on the dialogue and heavy on music, and I did have a little trouble following it, but it's so raw and emotional. You can tell that the actors are into their parts. JGJ puts in a mind-blowing performance. He's also a really nice guy–I talked with him afterwards. He seemed geuniely happy when I told him how great he was.

    See this musical.

    You WON'T be disappointed.

    April 20, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. pfffft

    yoo nofx was bashing George Bush and his policies WAAAY before green day, The War on Errorism came out a year before American Idiot?. And nofx is actually a punk band!
    ...although nofx is clearly not mainstream enough for you... like a reaal punk band. sellll out!!

    April 20, 2010 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  10. suzanne

    I went and saw the play twice in Berkeley and it was the best musical I have ever seen! I am a Green Day fan and Musical theatre buff!! so go and see it now! it will blow your mind!!!!!!

    April 20, 2010 at 2:54 am | Report abuse |
  11. ScrapSupply

    This will be interesting. But not nearly as interesting as THIS:

    http://scrapsupply.blogspot.com/2010/04/tiger-still-strong-in-singapore.html

    April 19, 2010 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Angelina

    I saw this last Thursday in NY and it was absolutely fantastic. In my opinion it is the "RENT" of today. The music was amazing and it was not overdone or silly. Keep in mind that Green day was in constant collaboration during this entire project. Being in my mid 30's now, this completely resonates with the things I remember...but it also applies heavily to today. I have a 19 year old nephew and the story line of this song could just as easily have been an exact representation of his current life. It is very sad and disturbing yet amazing and exhilarating at the same time.

    April 19, 2010 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Steve

    I was not a fan of the "American Idiot" album. The play "American Idiot" has converted me. Awesome doesn't do it justice.

    April 19, 2010 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. mushymushroom

    Damn. If I were in NY I would have gone to see this!!!!!!

    I love Greenday...and doing something like this makes me respect them more.

    They are the band who has the balls to do something that no one else has ever done before...they're sooooooo punk rock!!!

    April 19, 2010 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. RupertHynes

    This is great! Broadway is finally getting hip! It's not about how uncool it is for cool bands to do Broadway, but how cool Broadway is finally getting interesting and youthful subject matter....first Spring Awakening now this! I'm ready for jazz hands as long as it's done by Green Day.

    April 19, 2010 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  16. TNT

    I am a huge Green Day fan and American Idiot is my favorite album of all time. I went and saw the show in New York last weekend and I am so impressed and pleased with what they have done. It may be short, and although it lacks much dialouge, they made the right choice. It is high energy the whole way through and not at all 'corny'. It also is not a jukebox musical, it is completly true to the story of the original American Idiot album, the few songs added in from 21st Century Breakdown, suprisingly, really help to flesh out the story.
    While it may not [although I seriously doubt it flops], I believe this show may revolutinize Broadway, regardless of what the critics say after the show opens this Tuesday.
    And @g: I think that by having the guts to turn his art into a musical, that makes Billie Joe more punk than anyone. He dosen't have to fit into a certain system. He is a punk..and punks do what they want.

    April 19, 2010 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
  17. g

    Lame. Nothing says failure to punk rock like turning your music into a stage show. If you see Billie Joe, call him an epic sell out!

    April 19, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  18. SOCKS

    Saw American Idiot on Broadway over the weekend. Amazing is a word that doesn't do the show justice. Jaded NY'r or not, a fantastic show that represents a generation in music.

    Show opens and closes on fantastic songs and truly lived up to it's standing ovation at the end.

    Bravo to Green Day – this is one everybody who likes you and doesn't hate you.

    April 19, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  19. L. Greer

    American Idiot is an amazing stage experience. You have to see it live to believe it. I saw it in Berkeley, hope to see it in New York. The staging is beyond impressive. Can't say enough about it. And yes, the music is the main character

    April 19, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Paulie Bleeker

    When American Idiot came out, it was a great album. Now, it is a great album that has been beaten and scarred by radio overplay and showbusiness. Whereas I don't believe that Green Day has gone "corporate", but American Idiot unfortunately has, some time ago. It was a great concept and a great album. Another unfortunate turn was the follow up album, 21st Century Breakdown. Not only thematically is it trying too hard to be AI pt. 2, but even by comparison, musically it is just too similar. AI worked once. Now we have AI on Broadway. No, I've not seen the show but over the last week I have seen two "making of" type shows on it. As much as I enjoy theater, I hope real theater goers will enjoy it more than what I've seen. I just doesn't appeal to me. I'm not judging or saying that I think it is bad. But compared to the album it is derived from, that I have truly enjoyed so much, it just doesn't do it for me. It is my hope that it does well and I look forward to seeing what Green Day have in store for us next. Hopefully they will do what they do best and make another great album.

    Cheers!

    April 19, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Head Diva In Charge

    When I first heard about this, I though "O please, give it a rest". But....I must say, I am intrigued. Sounds like it might be something worth seeing. If so, props to you Billie Joe.

    April 19, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |

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