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Green Day's Rock Musical

The musical...and how it came to be.


Having rocked arenas from coast to coast on its summer tour, the East Bay’s Green Day has a special homecoming in store this month. Before heading off to Europe for the next leg, singer Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt, and drummer Tré Cool will attend the world premiere of Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s American Idiot—a musical based on their smash album. Here’s how the project came together.

[1] The Album:

► Released in 2004, American Idiot was an angry, ambitious rock opera, with plenty of scorn for the Bush administration. The album sold more than 12 million copies worldwide and won Grammys for album and record (for “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”) of the year. A world tour included two shows in England, with the highest attendance for any punk rock concert in history.

[2] The Musical:

► Tom Hulce, best known for his Oscar-nominated role as the original punk rocker, W. A. Mozart, in the film Amadeus, brought the project to Berkeley Rep’s Artistic Director, Tony Taccone. Hulce had produced the 2006 rock musical Spring Awakening, working with director Michael Mayer. “I said yes right away,” says Taccone. “The East Bay’s biggest rock band at Berkeley Rep? It’s going to be great!”

[3] The Director:

► Mayer won a Tony Award for directing the Broadway smash Spring Awakening, a coming-of-age show about the tragic consequences of sexual repression, with music by Duncan Sheik. As Mayer was working on that show, he listened to American Idiot obsessively.

[4] The Composer:

► Billie Joe Armstrong found out about Mayer’s fandom via a post on a Green Day message board. The feeling was mutual. “I was floored [when I saw Spring Awakening]. It was so uncharacteristic of what I thought theater was supposed to be,” Armstrong told Rolling Stone. “[Then], I went to a workshop [for American Idiot], and I couldn’t f*****g believe it. It’s incredible.”

[5] The Show:

► In addition to the entire American Idiot album, Berkeley Rep’s musical will feature four songs from the group’s 2009 album, 21st Century Breakdown. A cast of singers will be accompanied by a band on stage. American Idiot runs September 4–October 11, berkeleyrep.org.

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