Green Day, the chart-topping pop-punk band born in Berkeley, is morphing into a collective playwright, and it will unveil its first effort at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in September, the group announced Monday. The musical titled "American Idiot," based on Green Day's 2004 Grammy-winning, multi-platinum album of the same name, is being developed in collaboration with Michael Mayer, the Tony-winning director of Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik's "Spring Awakening."
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Following the trail blazed by the Who's rock opera "Tommy," and more recently traveled by the Rep's production of Stew's "Passing Strange," the presumably also Broadway-bound "American Idiot" tells a story through song. The new musical will use all the songs on the '04 release, which won best rock album and record of the year Grammys and sold more than 12 million copies, as well as songs from Green Day's forthcoming "21st Century Breakdown" (to be released May 15). It begins previews Sept. 4 and opens the Rep's season Sept. 16, running through Oct. 11.
The band members had already been thinking about a stage version when Mayer approached them, guitarist-vocalist Billie Joe Armstrong says. Mayer's concept and a trip to see "Spring Awakening" convinced them he was the man for the job, and what Armstrong calls Green Day's "hometown" theater would be a perfect partner. The Rep is "very adventurous," he says, "and their willingness to take chances is in keeping with the spirit of the album."
The decision to go ahead with the project was made after a recent workshop in New York, produced by the Rep, with Mayer, choreographer Steven Hoggett and Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tré Cool, who founded Green Day at Berkeley's seminal punk club 924 Gilman in 1990. Green Day will not appear in the show itself. "American Idiot" will be performed by a cast of 19, with an onstage band.
Mayer says the musical will portray "a journey from apathy to action," reflecting what he describes as the "brutally honest, eloquent, passionate, funny and poetic" album.