Those passing by the Trustus Theatre in the Vista this week might not be sure whether they’re overhearing rehearsals for a stage play or a rock concert. “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” and “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” are just a few of the hit songs included as the first ever local production of the Tony Award winning musical Green Day’s American Idiot opens Friday night.
“It’s just great music,” said director Chad Henderson. “Billy Joe [Armstrong, of Green Day] is an excellent melody writer.” Henderson said the songs will have the familiar guitars and drums, but the arrangements for the show also include a string section and additional vocalists. “It’s still big and in your face and satisfying,” for Green Day fans, he said, but accessible for those unfamiliar with the band’s work.
The show isn’t just hit songs, of course. The plot focuses on three young men looking for meaning in life, two of whom who leave their suburban homes in search of more freedom and excitement. “You’re kind of giving a picture of a generation,” Henderson said. “It starts with the plot, starts with ideas and morals, then moves into a very personal story.”
Henderson said Armstrong and the other members of Green Day were “able to project a lot of their personal experiences into the songs.” He said that is a big part of what makes American Idiot a great show. “Theatre at its best is a rehearsal for life,” he said.
The show, nominated for a Tony for Best Musical in 2010, is set in a post 9/11 world very familiar to audiences and to the young cast of the Trustus production. “They come with a lot of energy. They really embraced the challenges of the show,” Henderson said of the cast. “They really move in a great way.”
“It is going to be like a killer rock concert but with a story,” said Michael Hazin, who plays St. Jimmy in the show. “We have incredible artists who are working tirelessly to make this show into something Columbia has not seen before.”
Henderson said he’s also very excited about the work of the show’s design team and their use of different types of media to help tell the story. “Our show is looking like an exciting rock concert,” he said. “It’s definitely going to be a new vision, technically speaking, in this theatre.”
Doing a show like this, known as a rock opera, brings a variety of challenges, including the verse/chorus/verse/chorus style typical to hit rock songs but unusual for Broadway. Still, Henderson said he and the Trustus team had no doubt it could be done in Columbia. “We were pretty aggressive about getting [the rights to perform the show],” he said. “We’ve got a really great music theatre consortium here in Columbia. I don’t think people always realize that.”
Green Day’s American Idiot contains adult language and situations. The show will last approximately one hour and 45 minutes with no intermission, and opens Friday night with performances continuing through July at Trustus. More information on show times and tickets is available here.
Pictured: The Trustus cast in rehearsal (photo provided)