The Daily Gamecock

'American Idiot' musical shakes up traditional theatre

The "American Idiot" musical at the Trustus Theatre brings the band Green Day’s 2004 rock opera to life with a full cast of actors, singers, dancers, stage lights and a live band.

“(The musical is) a high energy rock opera that tells the story of three friends trying to find their way in a post 9-11 world,” Trustus Artistic Director Chad Henderson said.

Henderson, who graduated from the University of South Carolina with a minor in theatre and who has been a Green Day fan since he was young, believes that punk rock fans and musical fans alike can find enjoyment from the show.

“I think this show is absolutely exciting for Green Day fans, because they’ll know most of the words and enjoy the additional string and vocal parts that the show offers to the album” said Henderson. “For theatre fans who aren’t Green Day fans, I think they’ll be surprised at how much they enjoy the melodies in this show.”

The musical, which has won two Tony Awards, features every song on Green Day’s 2004 album, "American Idiot," as well as some songs from their 2009 album, "21st Century Breakdown" and some bonus non-album songs. Each song has its own detailed choreography and stage setup, and between musical numbers, each song is an acted-out section where the narrative is told.

“We have one of the largest bands we’ve ever had for a show and a large cast, so it’s kind of one of the, if not the, biggest production we’ve ever done,” Trustus Executive Director Leila Ibrahim said.

The stage is set up with TV screens, ramps, lights and decorations that perfectly match the tone of the album. Musically, the production draws connections between various Green Day songs by playing them together in harmony. This was particularly impressive as the crew managed to combine elements of multiple songs — some of them on completely different albums — in a way that gave them a new tone and a new meaning in the context of the story that was being told.

Henderson said that rock operas are different from traditional musicals because the songs are portraying an idea rather than explicitly telling the story itself.

“This has been a challenge, as it’s been my first rock opera — but I’ve always been a fan of rock and was very much like these characters in my 20s, so relating has been cathartic and revealing,” Henderson said.

The show tackles many poignant issues of youth such as drugs, pregnancy, war and depression that are just as relevant now as they were when "American Idiot" released in 2004.

Garett Bright plays the main character, Johnny, and Michael Hazin plays his reckless alter ego, St. Jimmy. The struggle between these two takes them to dark, life-changing places.

Whether you know every word to “Jesus of Suburbia” or you’re a Broadway fanatic, the "American Idiot" musical offers something for you.

“This is really a unique piece that’s just an amazing night of theatre,” Ibrahim said.


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