Back in 1994, when I couldn’t stop listening to Green Day’s Dookie album, I can guarantee that I wasn’t thinking: Wow, this would make a great Broadway show. 10 years later, Green Day released American Idiot, a rock opera album that is a nod to The Who’s Tommy and numerous other musicals. A few days ago American Idiot the musical opened on Broadway. Yeah, that’s right. The punk rock band, which formed in 1987, is going to Broadway.
Green Day is made up of lead vocalist and guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist and backing vocalist Mike Dirnt, and drummer Tré Cool. It can be argued that Green Day, along with The Offspring, brought back punk after the forefathers, The Clash, the Sex Pistols and the Ramones, started it all.
Thinking about buying tickets? Here’s the premise: American Idiot follows the exhilarating journey of a new generation of young Americans as they search for meaning in a post-9/11 world, borne along by Green Day’s electrifying score. With a cast of 19 led by Tony Award-winner John Gallagher, Jr., the musical tells the story of three lifelong friends as one takes off for a life in the city, one leaves home to fight for his country and one stays behind, frozen in the safety of suburbia.
Green Day won two Grammy Awards for American Idiot. The album has sold over 14 million copies worldwide since its release, including 267,000 copies in its opening week. Now the band joins up with one of the theatre’s most acclaimed creative teams: Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer, two-time Tony Award-winning composer and orchestrator Tom Kitt and Olivier Award-winning choreographer Steven Hoggett, to bring their story to the stage.
So what does this mean for the future of rock operas? Will other bands follow in Green Day’s three-chord footsteps and make concept albums that can be translated to Broadway? Will they continue to surprise us like when Green Day released a ballad out of nowhere? Think about it: 1997’s inescapable “Good Riddance [Time Of Your Life]” became the go-to song for graduations, farewell parties, bar mitzvahs, etc. Who could have seen that coming?
Either way there is a lot to be said for a band that has continued to turn out hit after hit and album after album for several decades, while always coming up with something new but still staying true to their sound. They’ve already earned several Grammys and now they are the exciting new thing on Broadway. What will this California punk trio come up with next?
"Dookie" was the gift my parents gave me when I came home from my first summer at sleep away camp (along with TLC's "CrazySexyCool").
This synopsis reminds me a lot of another Broadway show called "Movin' Out." It is a show where the entire soundtrack is composed of Billy Joel songs and follows friends before and after the Vietnam war. It shows, through song and choreography ONLY, how the war shifts their dynamics with life, love, and self identity. I saw it twice and it was unbelievable.
I also had the opportunity to see "Tommy" on Broadway for my 10th birthday. Although the story line of "Tommy" does not mirror that of "American Idiot," it was obviously the score that breathed life into the characters on stage as well as the audience. My father bought me The Who's soundtrack (on cassette tape), so I could memorize all the songs before the show.
I cannot compare the greatness of Billy Joel or The Who to Green Day, but I can appreciate creating an illustration for artists' words. After all, songs are meant to be a form of storytelling. The punk genre prides itself on brazen social, economic, and political awareness, which are topics your mother told you never to bring up in good company…so then it must make for good entertainment right? I guess we'll see at the next Tony Awards if Green Day's album can truly send their regards to Broadway.
Laura Lieff says
I also saw The Who's "Tommy" and thought it was amazing. It was a long time ago but I still remember how incredible "Pinball Wizard" was and how much the whole thing resonated with me. You're right…Green Day is in a whole different genre than both The Who and Billy Joel but I think what they are doing is on a similar thread. I'm very excited to see what "American Idiot" has to offer….maybe we can go see it together 🙂
I want to go too. I did not know about Green Day's boradway debut.
Laura Lieff says
We should all go! I think it's going to be a bit hit!
One of my fav bands growing up. Still fun to here the powder rock trio. Great writeup, let me know when you need a concert photographer. Be sure to checkout my blog: http://www.mikehardakerphotography.com
Glad your doing well L