With the familiar opening chords of Green Day’s “Brain Stew” and a mid-‘90s performance of the song playing in the background, lead singer and face of the group, Billie Joe Armstrong, states that he never saw himself doing Broadway. And let’s be honest, no one did . . .
. . . But here he is, and along with him – American Idiot, the stage musical based on the band’s multi-platinum album of the same name. And now, in turn, Broadway Idiot is a behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of said musical.
The film traces the stage adaptation’s journey from inspiration to creation and from rehearsal all the way to New York’s famed Broadway stage. The challenges in adapting a well-known, high-concept punk rock album into a no-holds-barred Broadway show were countless, but the entire production team (and Green Day themselves) were up for the challenge.
“We (he and Armstrong) have nothing in common. There’s absolutely no reason why this should work,” says the show’s Tony Award-winning director, Michael Mayer. “American Idiot, the album, was a fierce stance about the state of America. To me, bringing American Idiot to Broadway just seemed like a really great idea.”
So the production begins in Berkley, California with crafting the original story to go along with the already written lyrics and music from the album. Everything comes together quickly as casting, choreography, set decoration, and rehearsal all commence. But the show still lacks one key element – the band’s stamp of approval. “I’m open to big, crazy ideas, but this album, it’s my baby. So, I want to make sure nobody f---- it up,” says Armstrong with a wry smile.
Thankfully, the members of Green Day not only approve, but wholeheartedly throw their support, guidance, and suggestions into the show. With the last piece of the puzzle firmly in place, the show kicks it into high gear, premiering at Berkeley’s Repertory Theatre in late 2009 before moving to the bright lights of Broadway by mid-2010.
The film, of course, shows tons of behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage and the audience is really exposed to how the musical not only develops, but also evolves over time. The cast members, crew, and band (especially Armstrong) form a cohesive and supportive group that really shines through in the production (both play and film).
As for Green Day’s involvement in the film, it is basically the Billie Joe Armstrong show – but then again, the band has always been that way, with its charismatic lead singer out in the forefront. The other members (bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tré Cool) barely speak a word throughout (though I think Cool emphatically nods a few times).
One of the best feelings that the film conveys is the anticipation and excitement leading up to the show from everyone involved – the band, the actors, and even the fans. Though the film focuses mainly on Armstong, Mayer, music director Tom Kitt, and the major actors, the enthusiasm and energy from the entire cast and all involved is palpable.
Towards the end of the film, Armstrong comments that Broadway was a different world than he was used to and not at all what he expected. Ultimately, he found it so welcoming and seductive that he actually fits in quite easily. On the same note, some of the audience members lining up for the show are unsure of what to expect to, but ending up really enjoying this different spin on the traditional Broadway musical.
Well, I can certainly relate to these sentiments. The film, and the Broadway musical it depicts, is not exactly what I expected, but ended up really liking both. The film is a rousing musical punk-rock romp for fans of both Green Day and Broadway alike.
* * * * out of 5 stars
Broadway Idiot is now playing at at Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center at 5:30 & 7:15 p.m. nightly (except Monday at 5:30 p.m. only).
So come out to the Zeitgeist (1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. New Orleans) this weekend and take advantage of this unique film-going experience and all the Zeitgeist Arts Center has to offer. And by doing so, help support one the premier alternative arts center in the South.
You can visit the Zeitgeist Multi-disciplinary Arts Center’s website here.
If you enjoyed this story, please subscribe and read Chris's other articles here: www.examiner.com/indie-movie-in-new-orleans/chris-henson
Follow me on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/#!/thechrishenson
And for all the news & inside scoop on film events happening in & around New Orleans - festivals, screenings, casting, trailers, and much more!