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Green Day to debut American Idiot at Berkeley Rep

East Bay punk legends' pop masterpiece becomes stage musical to kick off 2009/2010 season.



Photo by Phil Mucci

If you've seen the current issue of Diablo, you've seen that we picked Green Day to kick off our Eco-Awards. These locally-raised princes of punk have been working with the NRDC to spread environmental awareness and activism via their website, greendaynrdc.com. And while we're excited for the May 15 release of Green Day's next album, we were thrilled to read today's announcement  that Berkeley Rep is staging a live musical version of the band's monumental 2004 record, American Idiot. Check out the press release and ticket info below:

 

GREEN DAY ANNOUNCES STAGE VERSION OF AMERICAN IDIOT
Band brings blockbuster album to Berkeley Rep with director of Spring Awakening
 
 
MARCH 30, 2009 – Green Day won two Grammy Awards – Best Rock Album and Record of the  Year – with its multi-platinum American Idiot, which sold more than 12 million copies worldwide. Today the band announced plans to bring that explosive album to the stage by collaborating with Michael Mayer, renowned director of Spring Awakening, which grabbed eight Tony Awards including Best Director and Best Musical in 2007. The new show – also titled American Idiot – will receive its world premiere right in the guys’ backyard at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the Tony-winning playhouse that launched last year’s provocative rock musical Passing Strange. Berkeley Rep will produce the show in association with Tom Hulce and Ira Pittelman, the lead producers of Spring Awakening.
 
Mr. Mayer and Green Day, along with Olivier Award-winning choreographer Steven Hoggett, recently completed a workshop of American Idiot in New York, which was also produced by Berkeley Rep. The show includes every song from the album, as well as several new songs from Green Day’s upcoming release, 21st Century Breakdown. American Idiot will run from September 4 through October 11, opening Berkeley Rep’s 2009/10 season in the state-of-the-art Roda Theatre. A limited number of seats go on sale today at berkeleyrep.org starting at only $32. Lower prices and prime performance dates are available as part of a subscription to Berkeley Rep’s bold season, which also features five other hot new shows. 
 
American Idiot follows working-class characters from the suburbs to the city to the Middle East, as they seek redemption in a world filled with frustration – an exhilarating journey borne along by Green Day’s electrifying songs. As Time described the album, “You will hear a story about Jesus of Suburbia, his dangerous friend St. Jimmy, and a heroic girl called Whatsername, who are struggling to express their individuality in a mass-media culture.” This high-octane show will blend an onstage band and an ensemble of 19 young performers with what Newsweek calls “a soundtrack for anyone disillusioned by millennial America.” Yet, Time concludes, “For an album that bemoans the state of the union, it is irresistibly buoyant.”
 
“We are really excited to be working with Michael Mayer on this project,” says Green Day’s frontman Billie Joe Armstrong. “We’d been thinking of bringing American Idiot to the stage, but knew we needed to find the right partners. After meeting with Michael to discuss the possibility, he invited us to see Spring Awakening. We were so impressed with that production, as well as his vision for American Idiot, that we knew we’d found the perfect collaborator. Plus, doing it in our hometown at Berkeley Rep was an obvious bonus. They’re an amazing theatre group, very adventurous, and their willingness to take chances is in keeping with the spirit of the album. The end result will be terrific, and we’re really proud.”
 
“When I first heard American Idiot, I was struck by its innate theatricality,” Mayer remarks. “Here was a new musical drama begging to be staged. Who would have thought that one of the most brutally honest, eloquent, passionate, funny, and poetic theatrical responses to the post 9-11 world would be a Green Day record? The connection I felt to American Idiot surprised me. I knew and liked Green Day, but had no clue that I would ever feel so inside their songs. This work of passion and vision and fierce intelligence seemed to me like the heartbeat of a generation of Americans who were fed up. I hear in these amazing songs the articulation of their frustration, anger, longing for a better world – a journey from apathy to action. Collaborating with Billie Joe and the band is a mind-blowing thrill, and I can’t wait to begin production at Berkeley Rep, the perfect home for making a new kind of musical event.”
 
“Green Day is a band that we’ve long admired here in Berkeley and championed as one of our own,” says Tony Taccone, artistic director of Berkeley Rep. “American Idiot is an iconic album, and having the opportunity to bring it to the stage is a bit of a dream come true. To preserve the original intention of the album while creating a stage-worthy experience is a challenge that we relish, and bringing a director with the skill and experience of Michael Mayer into our theatre makes it that much sweeter.”
 
It is apropos that the show will premiere in Berkeley, which is where the band got its start. “The transfiguration of Green Day from punk-pop jesters into outspoken political agitators was mystifying – except to those who knew anything about the band members’ respective childhoods, and their early forging as a band in the cauldron of the gritty Berkeley, California, punk-rock scene, a back story that, in retrospect, makes the emergence of American Idiot, and its attendant rebel-rousing riot of a stage show, seem all but inevitable,” asserts Rolling Stone. “When they were 15 years old, Armstrong and Dirnt first ventured to the punk-rock all-ages club 924 Gilman Street Project, and everything changed. Located beside a canning shop in the gritty warehouse district of Berkeley, 924 Gilman was a graffiti-etched nonprofit drop-in center for legions of tattooed and mohawked punkers who ran the place on a volunteer, co-op basis. Gilman was where Armstrong and Dirnt first fell in love with punk music, and it's where they cut their political teeth… Apart from their political awakening, something else happened at the Gilman that would have an incalculable effect on their future. They met a fellow teenager, and Gilman regular, who already bore the stage name Tre Cool... By 1990, Armstrong, Dirnt, and Tre had coalesced into Green Day.” 
 
The band’s seventh CD earned effusive praise from the press upon its release. “The ambitious American Idiot joins an elite list of albums, such as The Who’s Tommy, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, that successfully weave a narrative through music,” asserts Amp. It is “a fearless and politically astute rock album, a richly melodic song suite that gives voice to the disenfranchised suburban underclass of Americans,” declares Rolling Stone. “What most fans – Democrats, Republicans, and anarchists alike – seem to be connecting with is the irresistible passion, intensity, and hookiness of the music,” adds Entertainment Weekly. “And Idiot’s brash sound has done more than just connect with the public. It’s also struck a decisive blow for rock music – make that loud, butt-kickin’ rock music, the kind that shakes your nerves and rattles your brain.” Now this music hits the stage at a nearby theatre that also earned a national reputation following its unlikely birth in a Berkeley storefront.
 
Tickets to American Idiot are available now for preview performances on select evenings early in the run: Friday, September 4; Saturday, September 5; Wednesday, September 9; Thursday, September 10; and Sunday, September 13. Tickets to these shows are priced at a special rate – only $32 to $54 – and may only be purchased online at berkeleyrep.org