TORONTO - If Toronto actor Jake Epstein wants to take a trip down memory lane while his latest show, Green Day's "American Idiot" musical, runs in in the city, he doesn't have far to go.
"My high school is down the street from the Toronto Centre for the Arts, so this is where I grew up — literally — so it's pretty cool," the 24-year-old said with a huge grin in a recent interview at the theatre, where the show runs through Jan. 15.
Epstein — who rose to fame playing troubled Craig on the CTV series "Degrassi: The Next Generation" — attended Earl Haig Secondary School, where he jammed on drums and sang backup vocals in a funk band.
It was the second garage band he'd been in.
The first group, in which he strummed acoustic guitar and sang, was inspired by the very artists he's now representing onstage.
"The very first concert I ever went to was a Green Day concert when I was 12 years old, at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ont., and I remember right after seeing them perform I started a band and I wanted to get up in front of people and start performing," said Epstein.
"Ten years later, to be on the Green Day 'American Idiot' tour is really awesome."
Dancap Productions is presenting the launch of the North American tour of "American Idiot," a Tony Award-winning punk-rock opera based on the eponymous 2004 Green Day album.
Director Michael Mayer co-wrote the book with Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong.
The story features three suburbanite friends whose lives take different paths as they search for meaning in a post 9-11 world.
Epstein plays Will, who feels left behind when his two pals flee to the city. He stays back to await the birth of his child and sinks into depression on his couch.
It's a role Epstein identifies with.
"I went to Los Angeles earlier this year ... to audition for TV shows and be a huge star, or whatever that means, and I didn't know anyone and I sat pretty much on my couch for the entire time, waiting for my phone to ring — and that was when I had my 'American Idiot' audition," he recalled.
"It came right around that time and I really related to the guy that didn't know what the hell he was supposed to be doing with his life, that was sitting on a couch. So I think about that a lot."
Playing the other two main characters are original Broadway cast member Van Hughes as Johnny and Canadian Scott J. Campbell as Tunny.
The touring cast also includes two other Canadians — ensemble members Talia Aaron and Gabriel Antonacci.
The score includes the Green Day hits "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," "Wake Me Up When September Ends" and "American Idiot." Also included are several songs from Green Day's 2009 release, "21st Century Breakdown."
A band and some cast members play the tunes onstage during the 90-minute show, which doesn't have an intermission and moves at a swift pace with loads of enthusiasm from the actors.
"I always think of 'American Idiot' as my generation's 'The Who's Tommy' or Pink Floyd's 'The Wall,'" said Epstein, a student of Montreal's National Theatre School, whose other theatre credits include "Billy Elliot" in Toronto.
"'American Idiot' was very much like that time in the world, right after Sept. 11th, when I think people were feeling really confused about what they were supposed to do and what politics they were supposed to believe in, and whether to go to war or not to go to war, and there was this president that had been elected two terms that was looked on as a joke in the rest of the world.
"It was like a time of not knowing what to feel and that's what spawned this show."
"American Idiot" first premiered at California's Berkeley Repertory Theatre in September 2009. It opened on Broadway in April 2010 and won two Tonys — for lighting and scenic design — and was nominated for a third, for best musical. The show album, meanwhile, won a 2010 Grammy Award.
Mayer came up with the idea for the musical after listening to the "American Idiot" album over and over.
"It resonated for me a lot," said Mayer, who directed Epstein on the national tour of "Spring Awakening."
"It expressed a lot of what I was feeling about living in Bush's America at the time and I loved the way that the record seemed to speak to a younger generation."
Mayer then proposed the idea to Armstrong, who loved it.
To Mayer's surprise, the two got along great and formed a connection.
"We're from such different worlds. We're very peculiar bedfellows in that way," said Mayer, who lives in New York and also directs the upcoming TV series "Smash."
"On paper, we really shouldn't be friends and collaborators because we're from completely different galaxies. But for some reason we hit it off great and had a fantastic collaboration and he's like family to me at this point."
Full article at Brandon Sun: HERE