Popular Green Day album gone musical comes to Lutcher Theater
The national tour of the explosive Broadway hit American Idiot, called “wonderfully raucous” and “emotionally charged” by The New York Times and “flat-out electrifying” by the Boston Globe, will make its Orange premiere Monday, Dec. 16, at 7:30 p.m. at the Lutcher Theater for one performance only.
Tickets range from $35-$65 and are available at www.lutcher.org or by calling the Lutcher Theater Box Office at (409) 886-5535. (Please note: American Idiotcontains adult content, sexual situations, drug use and strong language.)
American Idiot, a 2010 Tony Award-nominated Best Musical and 2010 Grammy Award winner for Best Musical Show Album, features the music of Green Day with the lyrics of its lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong. The book is by Armstrong and Michael Mayer and direction is by Tony Award-winner Mayer (“Spring Awakening”).
“This is such a potent time for our country, and the search of our characters for what to believe in is gorgeously celebrated through Billie Joe and Green Day’s wonderfully lush score,” said Tom Hulce, producer.
Winner of two Tony Awards, American Idiot is the story of three boyhood friends, each searching for meaning in a post 9-11 world.
The story for the musical is based on the concept album of the same name released in 2004 by punk rock band Green Day.
In the vein of punk music itself, the musical has a theme that is anti-establishment, highly political, and touches on issues that affect angst-ridden, apathetic youth in suburbia — including drug abuse, unplanned pregnancy, and rebelling to find one’s identity.
The musical also addresses feministic issues, as well, including the sexual objectification of women.
A story of three friends who each take completely different paths in attempts to find themselves, American Idiot is a journey through the life of three youths — Johnny, Will and Tunny — who are fed up with life in the suburbs.
“Johnny created this whole persona that he is the martyr of his town,” said Daniel Jackson, who plays the part of St. Jimmy, the destructive alter ego of Johnny. “Out of all the kids of this town, he’s the one that has it the worst, and he’s the one that says I’m gonna do something about it.”
The trio plans to leave the suburbs and head to the city to begin life anew, but their plans are significantly altered when Will finds out his girlfriend, Heather, is pregnant. Although Will decides to stay home and try to mend his relationship and “do the right thing,” he falls into a drug and alcohol-infused depression.
Johnny and Tunny decide to leave without their friend and head to the city where the two discover a new life that doesn’t live up to their unrealistic expectations. They are presented, instead, with a very dark and tainted reality.
“I think the message is about taking responsibility for yourself,” Jackson said. “All of these characters go down this rabbit hole of destruction. The only way they get out of it is taking responsibility for themselves.”
After arriving in the city, Tunny is hypnotized by a television ad from the U.S. Army, and unsatisfied with a life he believes has become meaningless, decides to join the military to find purpose and is immediately shipped off to war.
“This is propaganda at its fullest and the most potent point,” Jackson said. “Tunny’s life flips upside down because he realizes the only way he is going to better himself is to enlist in the military and go to Iraq. I think Tunny is the character that people … connect to the most because he is the story that you most empathize with. I think the message is right or wrong, sacrifice is hard, but when sacrifice is for the right reason, it becomes worth it. Tunny becomes a night-and-day mature person because of it.”
Johnny, now apart from his two friends, becomes smitten with a girl he has been observing through her apartment window. He refers to her as “Whatsername,” leaving her with an absence of identity — perhaps personifying sexual objectification in modern society. Johnny truly falls for his new found love but must decide what is more important in his life, drugs or love. That decision is greatly influenced when he meets the personification of punk rock music and drug abuse — St. Jimmy.
“St. Jimmy, in a literal sense, represents … Johnny’s addiction, but in a more abstract sense, he represents the idea of destruction,” Jackson said. “Not to sound cliché, but he is kind of that devil on Johnny’s shoulder.
“The drug use is really important in the show because it showcases an extreme that the youth turn to. I think it’s important to be really honest to young people about the dangers of drugs and the destruction that they cause.”
Similar to the genre of music from which it was born, American Idiotpacks a punk-rock punch that leaves the audience dazed by the many twists and turns throughout the storyline and the powerful message it conveys.
Jackson said American Idiot, like many other shows, is about Middle America, but with a more relatable message.
“I personally relate to many of these characters because they are the people I grew up around,” Jackson said. “St. Jimmy has several names for me. Johnny has several names for me. My good friend at home is Tunny. So many people I know have gone through these situations. You don’t have to like a certain type of music to empathize with a story or a group of characters.”
Jackson said his grandfather, who lived in Beaumont for many years, had a friend in his late 60s who was in tears after watching the show in Milwaukee. Jackson said his grandfather’s friend might not be in the demographic most would expect to attend a punk rock musical but is an example of how everyone can relate to American Idiot, not just fans of Green Day.
“He’s a Hispanic preacher who listens to Christian music and not necessarily anything to do with Green Day,” Jackson explained. “He absolutely loved the show because of the message about the struggling youth and about the excuses made by everyone in the town … the destruction that not taking responsibility for your actions causes. “
Love, perhaps a common theme in many musicals, is also in American Idiot, but is represented by an icon that many people might not associate with love — a heart-shaped hand grenade. The symbol is featured on the album cover of American Idiot, listed on MSN music’s “most controversial album covers,” and represents the double-edged sword that love can be, Jackson said. Not only is love explosive and filled with passion, but it also can be extremely destructive as well. This is seen through the stories of several characters throughout the show.
“Since its inception, audiences have been surprised by the emotional journey the show takes them on, told almost exclusively through Green Day’s songs, including many they are already familiar with and love,” Hulce said.
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.”
The acclaimed creative team also includes choreography by Olivier Award-winner Steven Hoggett (“Black Watch”) and orchestrations and arrangements by Pulitzer Prize-winner Tom Kitt (“Next to Normal”). The Tony Award-winning scenic design by Christine Jones and the Tony Award-winning lighting design by Kevin Adams will also be featured in the tour.
Through incredible spectacle, thrilling performances and with the hope embodied by a new generation, American Idiothas given audiences the time of their lives night after night since its Broadway run at the St. James Theatre (March 2010 – April 2011) and its subsequent national tour, which launched December 2011 in Toronto.
American Idiotpremiered at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in September 2009 and played through November of that year. In April 2010, the musical opened on Broadway where reviews were unanimously positive with Charles Isherwood of the New York Times calling the show “the most adventurous musical to brave Broadway in the past decade” and the Toronto Star naming it “the first great musical of the 21st century!”
This show is sponsored locally by The Examiner and by the Southeast Texas Arts Council.
The Frances Ann Lutcher Theater for the Performing Arts is a Stark Cultural Venue and is located at 707 Main in Orange.
For more information on American Idiot, visit www.americanidiotthemusical.com.
“The show is so deep. You have to just go into the show knowing that there’s going to be some really heavy stuff that you’re going to see,” Jackson said. “You have to go down the rabbit hole to really appreciate the story. You have to see what rock bottom looks like to see what the outcome is. I think that whatever extreme … that is relatable to 90 percent of the country — Middle America. That’s the story of American Idiot.”
Daniel Jackson as St. Jimmy
Daniel Jackson, 23, was born in Houston and raised in Birmingham, Ala. He has been acting since he was 14 and working professionally since he was 20. He has acted in Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story as Buddy, Hairspray as Fender, and in Les Misérables as Enjolras.
“This show has helped me ease into becoming a professional because rock is so in my wheelhouse,” Jackson said. “I love musical theater, but my type is so edgy and rock-heavy that I’ve always been worried that I’ll never make it as a musical theater actor because I’m not that typical leading guy. But a show like American Idiotis just perfect because I get to be myself, but also I get to showcase my skill set in a way that is perfect for the show.
“In a most visceral and incomparable level, it is one of the most emotional shows I’ve ever been a part of. I worked through so much stuff … my personal feelings … being able to just headbang it out and jump around and thrash around. There’s no show like that. You’re encouraged to bring your emotion to the piece.”
Jackson describes the experience of acting in American Idiotto entering a mosh pit.
“It’s very comparable,” Jackson said, “but more controlled. There’s probably going to be less punches thrown, less ankles rolled.”