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Green Day Blast Broadway With 'American Idiot'

Peter Travers on the punk trio's "groundbreaking musical"

April 23, 2010 7:52 PM ET

While Hollywood continues to raid its own threadbare closet for inspiration (Clash of the Titans, please!), live theater draws its inspiration from livewire punk. Broadway gets a blast of pure rock adrenaline in American Idiot, the groundbreaking Green Day musical that blows your mind while it blows the roof off.  Director Michael Mayer brings a soaring theatricality to the band’s punk assault on Bush-era alienation. And though the show has a libretto by Mayer and Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, the music does the talking. And what music, ranging from haunting to hell-raising without missing a beat in between.

Green Day on American Idiot: Read our latest interview with Billie Joe Armstrong and Co.

Powered by orchestrations from Tom Kitt (composer of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Next to Normal), the score stretches the boundaries of what’s possible on Broadway. The actors work miracles. As Johnny, the disaffected Jesus of Suburbia, John Gallagher, Jr. (Tony winner for Spring Awakening) is pure dynamite. Michael Esper and Stark Sands excel as his small-town buddies, stymied respectively by fatherhood and military service. But the standout is vocal powerhouse Tony Vincent as St. Jimmy, Johnny’s dealer and toxic id. Though American Idiot carries echoes of such rock musicals as Tommy, Hair, Rent and Spring Awakening, it cuts its own path to the heart. You won’t know what hit you. American Idiot knows no limits — it's a global knockout.

On the scene with Green Day at American Idiot's Berkeley Rep debut.

Meet the Cast and Creative Team of American Idiot:
Preview the show's title track and opening number: Get a taste of how punk translates to the Broadway stage. Plus, director Michael Mayer reveals what pushed him to transform the album into a full-fledged theatrical production and Billie Joe Armstrong lets RS in on the most eye-opening part of the show.

Meet the show's leads: John Gallagher, Jr., who leads the cast as Johnny/Jesus of Suburbia, won a Tony for his role in the Duncan Sheik-penned, Michael Mayer-directed Spring Awakening. Rebecca Naomi Jones, who plays Johnny's love interest, Whatsername, was previously on Broadway in Passing Strange, a show by alt-rocker Stew. Find out how the duo got involved with American Idiot, how they channel their inner rock stars onstage every night and what will "blow your minds" about the show.

Plus: Enter now to win the ultimate Green Day prize package — a chance to see American Idiot on Broadway, a two-night stay in New York City, a meet-and-greet with the cast and more. Plus, test your knowledge of the band in our ultimate Green Day quiz.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

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