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10/10/13

Broadway Idiot Reminds us that American Idiot Happened and it was Awesome

A lot of shows come and go through Broadway and having seen a near-full slate for the last three years, there are really only a few shows that leave a lasting impression. Very few have subverted the theater norm, and even fewer have lived up to the distinction of 'phenomenon' that oh-so-many shows claim to be in their marquee advertising.


As anyone with two eyes and ears under the age of 35 will attest, American Idiot was "that" show for the entirety of its just-over-a-year-long Broadway run. To the point where I could mention its name to a friend (or classmate. Or random Times Square tourist hitting me up for show recommendations) and they didn't have to go and Google its name. I mean, how many new musicals come from Grammy-award winning, chart-topping, multi-platinum rock stars?

And Broadway Idiot - a new documentary by Doug Hamilton that captures American Idiot's history, available in limited release and Video On-Demand tomorrow - has it all on tape for those behind-the-scene moments you have always been curious about and for those looking for their Idiot nostalgia. Yes, it may have only been a few years ago when the show left somewhat prematurely, but some of us are nostalgic for it, goddamnit...

It's all there…from the earliest of meetings between the unlikely dream team of Green Day and director Michael Mayer to the rehearsals for its out-of-town run at Berkeley Repertory Theater. The Grammys performance. Opening night on Broadway. Billie Joe Armstrong's first slate of performances. I'm perpetually glued to theater Twitter/Press Release central and I don't think Hamilton missed a single marker moment. Even better, his emphasis on the early stages of the show's collaborative efforts - something that is typically never documented, let alone released for public viewing (and Smash doesn't count, don't even try) - is interesting to watch. For anyone really. Those who like Green Day, those who like Broadway and even those with a fain interest in art and its creation.

You would think - as they themselves point out (Awareness Alert!) - that Green Day and Michael Mayer wouldn't get along given their drastically different backgrounds. And you might even think Green Day would want to kick Tom Kitt in the face for retooling their arrangements for a more Broadway, story-esque crowd. But no…Broadway Idiot details how all parties involved, plus the cast, are insanely likable, talented and professional people. You could tell they all have that artists mentality and sense of community to where mutual respect and deferring to those more knowledgable triumph over any differences and apprehensions. Heck, we know it worked - look at the end result: a well-rendered, amazing show loyal to the original album, subversive for the typical theatergoing audiences, yet appealing to a new generation of theatergoers. The fact that it was egregiously screwed out of more Tony awards and a longer run - that St. James Theater is hard to fill, no? - doesn't change the quality of the show.

It is worth noting that I am such a Tom Kitt fanboy that I SQUEE'D when I saw footage of him talking about his work on the score. Particularly, "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" (my favorite number from the show). I mean, how often do we get to hear Kitt speak? Directors and composers take a backseat to performers in most media coverage, so to have a documentary where both Mayer and Kitt are featured is a pleasant surprise. Mayer especially - he always struck me as one of the most underrated directors out there given he isn't on Broadway every season (although that is changing soon - he is directing Hedwig and the Angry Inch due out this spring).

A real treat is the footage of Billie Joe Armstrong himself. There isn't any tension to the documentary (at least not in a Morgan Spurlock sense) considering we all know how it ends - but the excitement leading up to BJA's buzzed-about debut is worth noting. And it bears repeating, how cool is/was it that someone from way way way outside the theater norm decided to take the plunge? Most actors - yes, actors - look at eight shows a week and the minuscule salary, bitch and moan, collect their (undeserved) Tony and then leave. Armstrong's adventure into theater is exactly how we all remember it - unique and lively. That is more or less why Broadway Idiot is worth a watch - it reminisces along with us about the American Idiot we loved and the unlikely combination of awesome people who created it.


Photo Credit: BroadwayIdiot.com

1 comment:

Cara said...

I am putting off watching Broadway Idiot until I can watch it with my best friend (sometime later this month). We saw the show 21 times and live nowhere near NYC. I love your title of this post. It makes me smile. Cause it did happen. And it WAS awesome. :)