American Idiot: Berkeley Rep starts rehearsal on Green Day musical


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‘Welcome to a new kind of tension.’

It’s among the opening lyrics from Green Day’s ‘American Idiot,’ the post-punk rock opera about disillusionment, love and loss among young adults in post-9/11 America. The phrase might also describe what’s happening inside the rehearsal hall at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, which is staging the world premiere of a musical based on Green Day’s landmark, Grammy-winning album.

Adapted by Green Day vocalist-guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong and ‘Spring Awakening’s’ Tony-winning director Michael Mayer, ‘American Idiot’ is a most unusual new musical. There is no traditional book, as the show’s text is drawn from the 2004 Green Day album, its liner notes and several other songs from the band, including a few tracks from the Bay Area band’s new CD, ‘21st Century Breakdown.’


The musical’s story is told through new song arrangements by Tom Kitt (‘Next to Normal’), Mayer’s staging and the muscular choreography of Steven Hoggett (‘Black Watch’). While the band is not performing in the show, Green Day (Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool) is collaborating with Mayer and his creative team, even giving the show an unreleased love song for one key section.

The 19-member ensemble for the production, which begins previews Sept. 4 and opens Sept. 15, is led by John Gallagher Jr., who starred as Moritz in Mayer’s ‘Spring Awakening’ and plays Johnnie in ‘American Idiot.’

Other principals include Matt Caplan (‘South Pacific’) as Tunny, Michael Esper (‘A Man for All Seasons’) as Will, Rebecca Naomi Jones (‘Passing Strange’) as Whatshername, Christina Sajous (‘Rent’) as Extraordinary Girl and Tony Vincent (‘Jesus Christ Supertstar’) as St. Jimmy.

-- John Horn

Related content: Berkeley Rep announces cast for Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’

Top photo (from left): Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt with director Michael Mayer. Credit: Carole Litwin