Broadway is about to get the roof blown off by the political anthems of Green Day's "American Idiot," and front man Billie Joe Armstrong has no qualms about it.
"What makes a true artist," the band's chief vocalist, guitarist and lyricist said, "is putting yourself out there and doing things that are dangerous and vulnerable."
Building a Broadway musical around three-chord rock certainly qualifies as a risk. But then again, when an album sells 15 million units, it also has the potential to introduce a new audience to Broadway.
On Tuesday, 500 lucky fans got to sample the show's opening number, as the entire cast, which includes John Gallagher Jr. and Rebecca Naomi Jones, performed the eponymous title track. Afterward, Armstrong and band mates Tre Cool and Mike Dirnt addressed the crowd. Before going offstage, the three climbed into a big bed, got under the covers and the entire cast piled up on them.
Based on the 2004 Grammy-winning album, the stage version of "American Idiot" tells the story of disaffected suburban youth, centering on the adventures of three friends amid the backdrop of the social and political overtones covered on the record. One of the individuals is based on the "Jesus of Suburbia" character.
Armstrong, who co-wrote the book for the show, felt "American Idiot" was more than a concept album.
"The thought was always for it to be staged or create a film," Armstrong said.
Making that a reality was the brainchild of director Michael Mayer. He had previously directed the Tony-winning "Spring Awakening" in 2006.
Mayer, who co-wrote the book, said he listened to "American Idiot" religiously back in 2004 on his daily Pacific Coast Highway drive. One day, he thought it would make a terrific show, because "it spoke to a generation of young Americans that were looking for more than what was on their idiot boxes or computer screens."
Several years later, Mayer approached Armstrong with the idea of bringing the punk rock opera to the stage. And, surprisingly to Mayer, Armstrong's responded, "That sounds great."
The production had a sold-out run last fall at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in California.
"American Idiot" opens on April 20 at the St. James Theatre. Preview performances began Wednesday.