In his early teens, actor Van Hughes absolutely adored the rock band Green Day.
“Especially the earlier years — ‘Basket Case’ and that record ‘Dookie’ and ‘Insomniac,’” he said. “That was my favorite kind of music. I was playing those songs in the mirror with my guitar back then.”
Now he’s singing songs by the band Bay Area band, as Johnny, “Jesus of Suburbia,” in the musical “American Idiot,” which comes to the Detroit Opera House Jan. 17-22.
“Doing it for a living, it’s kind of surreal,” Hughes said via telephone from rehearsals in Utica, N.Y. “I haven’t really made a lot of sense of it. In the New York company, I got to perform with (Green Day frontman) Billie Joe (Armstrong). It wasn’t an actual dream of mine. I never thought, ‘I’m going to perform with Billie Joe one day.’ But then it just kind of creeps up on you. You’re like, ‘I’m living out a childhood fantasy. This is crazy.’ ”
Nominated for three Tony Awards, “American Idiot” is the story of three boyhood friends, each searching for meaning in a post 9/11 world. The musical features the hits “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “21 Guns,” “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” “Holiday” and the blockbuster title track “American Idiot” from Green Day’s 2004 Grammy Award-winning, multi-platinum album. Also included in the score are several songs from Green Day’s 2009 release “21st Century Breakdown,” and an unreleased love song, “When It’s Time.”
“It’s not a normal kind of show,” Hughes said. “It’s part rock opera. It’s part movement piece. It’s part punk-rock collage at the same time as having a main story, but the story’s not always told literally. It’s sometimes told figuratively, where you can kind of take your own thoughts and run with it in some of these songs. I think we have 35 TVs on stage that are also telling their kind of story with images along with the music and the dancing and I think it really challenges people to think about where they are in their lives, what they’re doing and what their dreams and goals are, how can we make sense of this media-saturated world.”
Hughes became involved with “American Idiot” after simple auditioning for the show in New York City for the Broadway company.
“I was cast for the standby for the three lead parts of the show and, because of that, I was watching the show a lot,” Hughes said.
“I was just trying to learn it. I just really fell in love with the piece. The way it tells the story is so unique. You can’t really expect what you’re in for as an audience member because there’s so many different kinds of storytelling going on on stage Once I started doing the show (as Johnny), it became one of my favorite things I’ve ever acted in. When the tour became available, I was like, I’ve never done a tour. It seems to be my bag for sure. I really like doing this. I decided to hit the open road and go for it.”
Part of the joy of playing “Johnny” on Broadway and on tour is the chance to meet and befriend the members of Green Day. It’s something that Hughes cherishes.
“Yeah, they were around a lot during the New York run,” he said. “I got to know those guys really well. They’re so down to earth and so nice and giving and Billie Joe has become a friend of mine. We listen to records together.”
Hughes, who’s playing Cole Thornhart through this Friday on the ABC soap “One Life to Life,” said he expands his boundaries as “Johnny” in “American Idiot.”
“You’re stretching yourself to be a certain kind of character,” said Hughes, who is penning a production about 2012. “You might not necessarily identify with for yourself, personally. I was in ‘Hairspray.’ You’re in the 1960s. I was also in ‘9 to 5: The Musical.’ Those shows I found something of myself in those characters but I just feel like this, being a modern story, I really feel like I can really be myself on a large scale.
“My character, ‘Johnny,’ throughout the show is talking directly to the audience, telling them his story. Just to be able to stand on stage and sing these incredible songs and look people directly in the eye and speak the truth, is one of the simplest joys I’ve ever really had in my life.”
Full article at Michigan Live: HERE