WICKED LOCAL.com – Hugely popular, the rock band Green Day gained new fame when its album “American Idiot” became a Broadway rock opera that received two 2010 Tony Awards.
Theatre director Corinne Mason, a Green Day fan when she was a Stoughton teenager, said she thinks the rock opera makes the songs even more compelling, as they are sung by characters whose struggles move the audience.
Nearly all the songs are from the 2004 American Idiot album, which has sold six million copies in the United States alone, with a few from the 2009 “21st Century Breakdown” album. The Broadway cast recording received a 2011 Grammy for Best Musical Show Album. Green Day, started in 1986 by teenage friends, Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.
“It’s about young adults trying to figure out who they want to be and with that comes anger about the way the world is and feeling like they can’t change it,” said Mason, whose production runs at The Company Theatre, Feb. 8-17. “They want to get out of where they are and do something meaningful that makes them feel like they have a place in the world.”
With its opening song of the same name, “American Idiot” sets the cultural and political context for the three young adult men who want to escape what they see as the idiocy and conformity suburbia and make a life they believe will be more relevant in the dynamic city. But nothing works out the way they had imagined.
Will stays behind after he learns his girlfriend is pregnant and he becomes severely depressed; Tunny goes to the city, but then joins the military and gets injured in a war (not identified, although Afghanistan or Iraq are implied); and Johnny, alone in the city, unravels in drugs and alcohol.
With almost no dialogue to work with, Mason has tried to give depth to the narrative by directing the 14-member cast to highlight the lyrics and by telling the story through staging and choreography.
As they struggle with loneliness and trauma, addiction and depression, the young men express feelings whose relevance made hits of many of the songs. In “Wake Me Up When September Comes,” Johnny, Will and Tunny poetically articulate their challenges: “Here comes the rain again/Falling from the stars/Drenched in my pain again/Becoming who we are.” In “Boulevard of Dreams,” Johnny speak of disappointment: “I walk this empty street/On the boulevard of broken dreams/Where the city sleeps/And I’m the only one, and I walk alone.”
American Idiot, presented by The Company Theater, 30 Accord Park Drive, Norwell. Feb. 8-17. $44, 781- 871-2787 or www.companytheatre.com.
Seeking relief from the pressure of despair, Will and Tunny sing “Give Me Novacaine:” “Drain the pressure from the swelling/ The sensation’s overwhelming/ Give me a long kiss goodnight and everything will be alright/ Tell me that I won’t feel a thing/So give me Novacaine.”
Mason said the ballad “21 Guns,” sung with the ensemble, is one of her favorites with its incessant questions about war and what’s truly important: “Do you know what’s worth fighting for/When it’s not worth dying for?/Does it take your breath away/And you feel yourself suffocating?/Does the pain weigh out the pride?/And you look for a place to hide?/Did someone break your heart inside?/You’re in ruin.”
The show’s high-intensity energy and rebelliousness has been compared to “Hair” and its angst and disenchantment to “Spring Awakening.” In fact, Broadway director Michael Mayer, who won Tony Awards for “Spring Awakening,” proposed the stage version of “American Idiot” to Green Day. Mason, who teaches theater at Massasoit Community College, directed “Spring Awakening” at The Company Theatre several years ago.
Although the three young men don’t realize their dreams, their enduring friendship, along with the vibrant score, gives the show some hope and uplift.
“Whatever people’s circumstance, they questions their purpose,” Mason said. “In the end they find peace through their friendship, and I would love for audiences to feel how relatable the characters are.”
By Jody Feinberg, for The Patriot Ledger, photo by Zoe Bradford