"I talked about the album and my feelings in an article in Variety," Mayer told Playbill magazine recently. "Tom Hulce, my producing partner, read the article and said it sounded amazing. He asked if I was serious. I said, 'Sure — but they'll never go for it.'"
But Green Day and its manager and agent did go for it, leading to the new musical that brings the 2004 album's Johnny, Extraordinary Girl, Whatsername and St. Jimmy to life.
"It was just a dream," Mayer said. "It began with the fact that Green Day made this extraordinary record, 'American Idiot.' I fell in love with it the first time I heard it, and became obsessed. I started to fantasize about what I could do if I could stage it."
Produced by not-for-profit Berkeley Repertory Theatre in Green Day's Bay Area stomping ground, American Idiot stars Tony Award-winning actor John Gallagher, Jr., who reunites with Mayer, his Tony-winning director from Spring Awakening. The project, co-conceived by Mayer and Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, will play the Rep's Roda Theatre to Nov. 1 (which represents a recently announced three-week extension). *
Gallagher (who won a Best Featured Actor Tony for his work as Moritz in Spring Awakening) plays Johnny, leading an ensemble of 19 young performers that also features Matt Caplan as Tunny, Michael Esper as Will and Tony Vincent as St. Jimmy with Mary Faber as Heather, Rebecca Naomi Jones as Whatsername and Christina Sajous as Extraordinary Girl.
Berkeley Rep presents the show in association with Tom Hulce and Ira Pittelman, the lead producers of the 2007 Tony-winning Best Musical Spring Awakening.
"We've been working with the cast on this show for the past several months," Armstrong said in an earlier statement, "so we've seen first-hand what amazing actors they are. We continue to be impressed with how they are handling and interpreting the material. Their talent has truly brought the album to life in a really incredible way."
"This wildly gifted company is investing every fiber of themselves in this material," Mayer, the 2007 Tony winner for Best Direction of a Musical, stated. "They're bringing depth and passion to their characters, and singing the shit out of the songs. Watching them inhabit the kinetic dynamism of Steven Hoggett's brilliant choreography takes my breath away. It's a rare honor to be blessed with such devoted and spectacularly imaginative performers."
Green Day won two Grammys — Best Rock Album and Record of the Year — for its multi-platinum "American Idiot," which sold more than 12 million copies worldwide.
Here's how Berkeley Rep characterized the show: "With an onstage band, American Idiot follows working-class characters from the suburbs to the city to the Middle East. In an exhilarating journey borne along by Green Day's electrifying songs, they seek redemption in a world filled with frustration. This high-octane show includes every song from the album, as well as several songs from Green Day's new CD, '21st Century Breakdown.' The world premiere takes off at Berkeley Rep, the Tony-winning playhouse that launched last year's provocative rock musical Passing Strange."
Matt Caplan (Tunny), a guitarist who has released three CDs, appeared on Broadway in Rent and South Pacific, on TV in Fox's "New Amsterdam," and on film in "Across the Universe" and "Painting Abby Long.
Michael Esper (Will) made his Broadway debut last fall in A Man for All Seasons. His many other credits include the recent premiere of The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures by Tony Kushner.
John Gallagher, Jr. (Johnny) earned a Tony Award for his portrayal of Moritz in Spring Awakening. His other credits include Rabbit Hole on Broadway; Current Events, Farragut North, Kimberly Akimbo and Port Authority Off-Broadway; and films such as Woody Allen's "Whatever Works" and Kenneth Lonergan's "Margaret."
Rebecca Naomi Jones (Whatsername) performed in Passing Strange at Berkeley Rep, Off-Broadway, on Broadway and on film. Previously, she toured with Caroline, or Change; Little Shop of Horrors; and Rent; her recent credits include This Beautiful City and Wig Out! at Vineyard Theatre.
Christina Sajous (Extraordinary Girl) appeared in the national tour of Rent. Her New York credits include King Lear with the Classical Theater of Harlem and Wild Party at Culture Project.
Tony Vincent (St. Jimmy) has performed on Broadway in Jesus Christ Superstar and Rent, and in London and Las Vegas in We Will Rock You. He has performed as the frontman for the rock band Queen on several occasions, including Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee and Party in the Park.
The above artists are supported by an ensemble of 12 young talents. Declan Bennet, a songwriter with two CDs, appeared on Broadway in Rent and on the West End in Taboo. Andrew Call performed on Broadway in Cry Baby, Glory Days and High Fidelity and Off-Broadway in Altar Boyz. Gerard Canonico made his Broadway debut at eight years old as Gavroche in Les Misérables; more recently, his credits include Spring Awakening on Broadway. Miguel Cervantes portrayed Chip on Broadway and in the national tour of The Putnam County Spelling Bee; his other credits include Happiness at Lincoln Center. Joshua Henry performed in Serenade Off-Broadway, In the Heights on and Off-Broadway. Brian Charles Johnson appeared in the Broadway and Off-Broadway productions of Spring Awakening, and in workshops at Manhattan Theatre Club and Roundabout Theatre Company. Chase Peacock has performed for North Carolina Theatre, Paper Mill Playhouse, and the first national tour of Disney's High School Musical. Theo Stockman was named Best Leading Actor at the International Theatre Festival in Warsaw before appearing in the Off-Broadway and Broadway productions of Hair. Ben Thompson performed in Cyrano de Bergerac at the Metropolitan Opera and in national tours of Big River and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Alysha Umphress has been seen on screen in "Across the Universe," Off-Broadway in Make Me a Song, and as an opening act for Diana Krall. Morgan Weed appeared Off-Broadway in the world premiere of Saved and regionally in world premieres of Bowery Boys, The Boys are Coming Home, In the Bubble and Was. Libby Winters' stage credits include the New York Musical Theatre Festival and New York Stage and Film; she also sings and plays guitar for The Fabulous Entourage.
American Idiot features the work of Olivier Award-winning choreographer Steven Hoggett with Tony-winning composer Tom Kitt providing music supervision, arrangements, and orchestrations. The design team includes Tony-nominee Christine Jones (sets), two-time Tony winner Kevin Adams (lights), Baryshnikov fellow Andrea Lauer (costumes), and Obie Award- winner Brian Ronan (sound), as well as video designer Darrel Maloney.
For more information on American Idiot and the other shows in Berkeley Rep's 2009-10 subscription season, call (510) 647-2949 or toll-free at (888) 4-BRT-Tix or visit berkeleyrep.org.