It’s amazing how long it takes us to change our view of something once it’s ingrained. Most people still think of New York City as dangerous, Starbucks coffee as bitter, Robin Williams as funny, and Broadway music as the exclusive domain of such songsmiths as Rodgers and Hammerstein and Andrew Lloyd Webber. That last one may change for good starting next week, when the musical American Idiot, based on Green Day’s 2004 punk-pop album of the same name, opens at the St. James Theater. The prevailing opinion was summed up fairly well by Bill Maher, who, when he interviewed Green Day’s front man, Billie Joe Armstrong, on his show last week, said, “[when I think] musical I think of Ethel Merman, Tommy Tune, Mr. Stephen Sondheim—I don’t think of Sid Vicious.”
American Idiot is neither an old-timey toe-tapper nor a radical reinvention of the musical form. It is an intense, 90-minute rock opera, powered by impassioned, creative renditions of Green Day’s songs and by the mesmerizing, evocative choreography of Steven Hoggett. As the show’s star, John Gallagher Jr., says, “It just goes and goes and goes until it can’t go any further. You really feel like you’ve been through something by the end.” The story follows Gallagher Jr.’s character, a disaffected twentysomething referred to in Green Day’s lyrics as the Jesus of Suburbia, as he sets out for the big city.
Rock has had a place on Broadway for decades, from Hair to Jesus Christ Superstar to The Who’s Tommy to Rent. But most of the shows that made it to Broadway (with the notable exception of Tommy) featured somewhat watered-down versions of rock music—not the kind of stuff you could hear on a modern-rock radio station or drive your parents crazy by blasting in your bedroom. In the past few years, however, there has been a profusion of successful Broadway musicals with harder-edged, guitar-driven scores. For a quick primer, all you need to do is look at the bios in the American Idiot playbill.
[Full article at Vanity Fair]