“There’s people that like to do things the safe way, and that’s just never been part of my vocabulary,” says Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong. Whether you admire or abhor the punk rock band’s music, the main vibe you take away from the documentary, ‘Broadway Idiot’ is the immense talent of Armstrong. ‘Broadway Idiot’ is a highly entertaining behind-the-scenes look at how a musical production is undertaken. If you think making a film is challenging, wait until you see the creative blood, sweat and tears that go into making Green Day’s 2004 bestselling album ‘American Idiot’ into a hit stage musical.
The opening scenes show the unlikely pairing of the show’s director Michael Mayer and rockstar Armstrong. Mayer is a self-proclaimed theater geek from an upper-class family on the east coast while Armstrong comes from a working-class background in Berkeley, California. Mayer’s passion for theater is evident throughout the documentary. When he gets permission to bring it to the stage, Armstrong evolves from being intrigued to being so passionate about the project that he eventually takes on the pivotal role of St. Jimmy. When you see Armstrong on stage, you realize he is the only one with the charisma to pull it off.
Doug Hamilton is an award-winning director for PBS series such as Nova and Frontline. He effectively manages to capture the raw energy of putting together a Broadway musical. Hamilton focuses the attention on Mayer and Armstrong’s journey. Armstrong’s bandmates Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool play a quiet role in the background. This is definitely Armstrong’s baby who is the main songwriter and creative force behind the band’s hit albums. It is amusing to watch his appreciation for theater blossom as the musical takes shape. He bonds with the young Broadway cast members too. It’s so powerful when he talks about the loneliness of being a rockstar. Essentially, theater allows Armstrong to rejuvenate a sense of community that he lost on his rise to the top in the music scene.
The mastery of the documentary is how Hamilton shows what went into making the musical. As they prepare for a test-run at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, we get a first-hand look at the meticulous detail of the set design. There is more there than meets the eye. The way musical composer Tom Kitt interprets the songs from the album ‘American Idiot’ is the highlight of the film. There is a scene of the young cast singing the deeply powerful lyrics of “Wake Me Up When September Ends’ that floors Green Day. Armstrong reveals that he was inspired to write the song as a tribute to his father’s death when he was only 10-years-old. It’s so moving.
That’s the brilliance of this upbeat documentary. It makes you pay attention to the lyrics of Green Day’s songs. Armstrong is one humble and down-to-earth musician. He is the kind of guy you want to drink a beer with. He’s a likable soul that is not afraid to tell it like it is. He understands that some criticize his punk band for winning Grammy awards but at the end of the day, he and Green Day earned everything they have achieved in the music industry.
For those that saw the Sundance indie hit, 'Short Term 12,' John Gallagher Jr. who stars with Brie Larson plays the lead role in the theatrical version of 'American Idiot.' He is a rising actor to watch. http://www.examiner.com/review/short-term-12-movie-review-1.
‘Broadway Idiot’ is now playing in select theaters and is available for digital download. Visit FilmBuff for more details http://www.filmbuff.com/.