Green Day’s American Idiot: The Musical : an inside look

Green Day’s explosive award-winning Broadway phenomenon “American Idiot” has arrived in Australia, set to rock audiences in Melbourne, Brisbane and Darwin, having already impressed in Sydney, Adelaide and Perth.

The musical debuted back in 2009 in the appropriate town of Berkeley, California, and migrated to the St James’ theatre on Broadway in 2010. After 422 performances on Broadway, the show finished in 2011, but has since been in high demand across the world, so followed up with performances in Europe, South America and now Australia.

If you’re unfamiliar with the musical, or the album on which it’s based on – you’ve come to the right place. Not only have I had the inside look into the amazing broadway hit, but I also am the self-declared #1 Green Day fan and have been waiting 9 years to see this production.

So let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

“American Idiot: The Musical” is based on Green Day’s 2004 album by the same name. It’s not like a traditional album, but more of a rock opera, and tells the story of Johnny and his friends, who all live in Jingletown, USA. His friends – Will, Tunny, Heather and many other youths – all live fairly unhappily and fall into drugs and despair while trying to find themselves.

Johnny meets St Jimmy – who may or may not just be a figment of his imagination, that’s up to you to decide – who seduces him to the dark side of drugs, sex and booze, making him fall off the straight and narrow. He also meets Whatsername and falls in love with her, but she ultimately leaves him as he struggles to stay away from the bad influence of St Jimmy.

Obviously that’s a super simplified version of the story, but the “American Idiot” musical goes through the album and tells this story through the performance. Ultimately it tells of the story of these three best mates as they go on a quest to find true meaning in a world full of violence and dissolution, leading them on a journey of self-discovery, heartache and revelation.

The role of St Jimmy is a shared rotation by Phil Jamieson (of Grinspoon fame), Adalita (from Magic Dirt) and Sarah McLeod (The Superjesus). The Australian tour will see Ben Bennett in the lead role of Johnny, Phoebe Panaretos as Whatsername, Connor Crawford as Tunny, Kayla Attard as the Extraordinary Girl, Alex Jeans as Will, Ashleigh Taylor as Heather, supported by Erin Clare, Christopher Scalzo, Nicholas Kyriacou, Kyla Bartholomeusz, Maxwell Simon, Vidya Makan, Phoenix Mendoza and Kuki Tipoki.

So ahead of “American Idiot’s” debut in Melbourne, I got the opportunity to attend an exclusive preview of the musical, and see two numbers performed (American Idiot and St Jimmy), and interview the three stars on rotation for the role of St Jimmy – Phil Jamieson, Adalita and Sarah McLeod.

The show is going to be a massive hit, let’s say that. It’s going to appeal to Green Day lovers and those unfamiliar with their material, because it’s incredible singing and dancing, amazing visuals and an impressive cast that really share chemistry on stage. It’s about time Australia got their look at this production, as it brings punk-rock back into the musical scene. It’s not for the feint hearted, as it touches on some pretty hardcore issues – not to mention drops a few f-bombs – but it will certainly make us all feel young again.


Now let’s speak to the St Jimmys, shall we!

Q: How different are each of your performances, and do you get audience members coming back to see each of your versions of St Jimmy?

Adalita: I think the St Jimmys are quite different to each other and we all have our own take on St Jimmy, and yes there have been punters that have come back and seen different St Jimmys, and loved them all. Sarah of course is having her debut in Melbourne, so I can’t wait to see it.

Sarah: Yeah so we are yet to determine how successful my Jimmy is! [laughs]

Adalita: No, no, no, but I know it’s going to be a unique take, like we all have on St Jimmy.

Sarah: We certainly look different, we all have our own variation on hair and make up, so that’s a good start. Phil hates my make up, he keeps calling me ‘panda bear’.

Q: Given that they are quite different, in one word how would you describe your presentation?

Adalita: I reckon… mine’s just nasty.

Sarah: Mine’s badass.

Phil: I’m fairly charming, but also a bit devilish in some ways.

Sarah: One word dude, one word.

Adalita: It’s hyphenated.

Phil: It’s too early in the morning.

The 3 St Jimmys – (L-R Adalita, Sarah McLeod and Phil Jamieson)

Q: You guys are all rock legends, so you’re not scared of the stage at all. How do you feel like that translates to playing a different character on stage, rather than yourselves?

Phil: It’s terrifying. The short answer is when we play, when we sing our own songs on stage, we’re representing ourselves. This is acting, this is not us. So I found the first time I did it to be very nerve-wracking, and because there’s so many other people that are really dependant on you – there’s 15 other incredible cast members – if we don’t hit a spot at the right time and that messes up their spot in the show. We all want to work as a team, and row as a boat, you know what I mean? That was the real pressure, because they’re all incredible, the people we work with.

Sarah: There’s so much to remember, like what spots you have to hit in certain parts of the song – it’s really particular. It’s like 5cm that way could change everything.

Phil: Yeah, so it’s terrifying but also incredibly rewarding, and it’s a different type of euphoria at the end of this show than a rock n roll show, ’cause there’s this ultimate thing where the audience comes with us on this incredible and quite emotional ride. So when it ends, it’s really quite a euphoric feeling when the crowd are with us – so it’s really lovely.

Adalita: Yeah, just that [laughs]. I was absolutely shitting myself the first time I did it – like terrified.

Phil: Yeah, same.

Adalite: ‘Cause you’re playing a role, you’re not playing yourself, which is what we essentially do when we’re playing our rock shows. So you’re playing a character, and you have to get into that role, and it’s a whole other world – the theatre world.

Sarah: There’s lots of running up and down stairs in high heels. And ladders up the back. In the dark.

Phil: We are running up and down stairs a lot.

Adalita: But it’s great, I think that we’ve thrown ourselves into this completely, like 110%, and that’s what you have to do in theatre.

Phil: Commit.

Adalita: Yes. The sense of accomplishment is far beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before, so it’s helped me on so many levels as a performer, so you’re taking away a lot. And I love this cast, I love this production – everything about it, I feel so lucky.

Phil: Yeah it’s a real honour and privilege to be a part of it.

Sarah: Everyone in this cast is really good. Really good singers, really good performers. Really good every night – it’s not like they slack off here and there. There’s a lot of performances.

Phil: We’re doing 9 shows a week. We don’t do that [All laugh]. So 9, that’s a lot, I mean – for me.

Adalita: And the show is so high energy, like it’s physically demanding – like really demanding.

Sarah: I remember seeing one of the first emails it said “if you need panadol, just go and ask blah-blah” and I was like “I wonder what they’re doing in there?”. And then I saw it and thought no wonder they need copious amounts of panadol. Everyone is just at it constantly and head-banging all the time, so it’s really taxing on your body.

Q: Were you all Green Day fans coming into this, and what motivated you to want to be a part of this musical? 

Phil: Oh I just said yes. I didn’t think about anything. I was just like “yes!” and then the consequences came later. I was a massive fan of Green Day – “Dookie”, I think it was ’94, when I graduated high school and it kinda… “Dookie” killed grunge in a way because it was all positive and it was really anthemic, and short songs and it was kind of the end of … and then “American Idiot” rolled around and I was a massive fan of “Boulevard” and those songs that all really struck out to me. Had a listen to the record for a few years when I got this. When I listened to the record religiously, and then got to the production, they’re like “nah it’s the broadway version mate, you’ve totally fucked up!”. So I was like “oh god there’s a broadway version” – so like “Know Your Enemy” is completely different in this production than it is on the record, so there was a bit of re-learning. But yeah I’m a massive fan, and even moreseo now. And also I’ll never hear “Letterbomb” the same, or “Extraordinary Girl” the same, as now it’s part of the characters of the show. It’s really taken a life of its own for me.

Sarah: Yeah I really like the way they’ve adapted it for the broadway side of it. They’s sort of made it this ’50s sort of thing – like it’s kind of The Beach Boys meets punk, with all the background vocals, and the way it’s orchestrated – it’s really clever. All the new arrangements are really clever, it’s right up my alley. I like it!

Adalita: I think for me, if I was going to do a musical ever, which I never thought I’d be doing, it was like yeah, fuck yeah, this is the one that you wanna do. I’ve always loved Green Day, and Billie Joe – you know he’s awesome. I’ve always just loved the cut of his jib. So I’m glad to be doing this one.

“Green Day’s American Idiot: The Musical” plays in:

Melbourne: until March 11, 2018 at the Comedy Theatre.
Brisbane: 13-21 April, 2018 at the Playhouse Theatre, QPAC.
Darwin: 3-6 May, 2018 at the Darwin Entertainment Centre.

Get tickets HERE.

Green Day’s American Idiot: The Musical : an inside look
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