"American Idiot" turns into a musical

September 17, 2009 12:12:43 AM PDT
Picture a Broadway musical premiere with a punk slant. Tonight in Berkeley there was the world premier of "American Idiot," based on the bestselling Grammy-Award winning album by the East Bay's own Green Day.

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"American Idiot," has an anthem of alienation and frustration. Suburbia is no fun ride, according to these frank lyrics. It's about a quest for meaning. The album by the East Bay rock band Green Day has sold more than 12 million copies. Now it has come to life on stage in the Berkeley Repertory Theatre.

"We were thinking of rock theatre, not rock opera. We had no idea. We were taking ideas from anything from West Side Story to Tommy," said Billy Joe Armstrong, the lead singer of Green Day.

It is raw, rough rock, edgy, mature, and cleverly staged. It's also loud. To make it sing, they turned to the award winning director of the teenage angst musical "Spring Awakening" who was attracted to the record's message.

"I think it's really the two things that Billy Joe talks about so eloquently on the record. The rage and the love, in equal measure," said Michael Mayer, the theatrical director.

"They stick to the integrity of the album. That's what we were so excited about. Then they added more to it, like with the story line. I think in a lot of ways, in certain respects, they've made the album better," said Armstrong.

Green Day appeared with first nighters to watch their work take flight, just a few miles from where they became famous in the underground punk scene.

"We've come full circle. It's nice to be able to start out here in Berkeley and get to see the play every day," said Tre Cool, the Green Day drummer.

"American Idiot" has had the biggest advance sale in the 41 year history of the Berkeley Rep. The run has been extended to November 1st and could go to Broadway? No one is saying, but they sure are hopeful.

LINK: Green Day's "American Idiot" musical at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre

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