First Person: Billie Joe Armstrong Sings and Dances Like a True 'Idiot'
By Elizabeth Yun Posted Sep 30th 2010 02:01PM
When my friend called to say he'd snagged me a last-minute ticket to see American Idiot, I was psyched. But then he dropped another bomb: "Billie Joe's in it tonight," and it was all I could do to keep from screaming like a little girl.
What product of a 90s upbringing, who spent many car rides screaming the lyrics to 'Basket Case' as it blasted on the radio, wouldn't get excited by the prospect of seeing Billie Joe Armstrong in the flesh? And not just in concert, but making his acting debut and performing his own music...in a Broadway musical no less. The novelty of the situation was just too much.
By last night's show, his new gig moonlighting as a musical theater actor wasn't a secret anymore. But that didn't stop the audience packing the St. James Theatre from screaming with delight when the announcer came over the PA to say that the role of St. Jimmy would be played by Billie Joe Armstrong. He made his debut on Tuesday when they revealed that he would be subbing for Tony Vincent in the role until October 3.
From the moment the curtain rose, everyone was buzzing with anticipation waiting for their first glimpse of him, which didn't come until about 30 minutes into the show. He appeared perched atop a metal staircase to sing the opening lines of 'St. Jimmy,' and even with the cast's impressive renditions of Green Day songs up until then, Billie Joe's familiar voice was greeted by another round of deafening screams.
And if anyone had doubts about the rocker's acting abilities, he put them to rest as soon as he stepped onstage. His character is anything but a saint -- he's a drug-dealing enabler who introduces the lead, Jesus of Suburbia, to the joys of hard drugs. It's a part that doesn't require many lines, but it does require enormous stage presence (something he's got in spades by now) and he head bangs, sings and dances (much to the crowd's glee) his way through each song like a seasoned Broadway vet.
The show (which is fantastic with or without Armstrong standing in) is really not about the plot -- whose conclusion anyone could have seen from a mile away -- it's about the cast's energy, the choreography and, above all, the music. Director Michael Mayer made a point of honoring the album as closely as possible (after the show he revealed he was terrified of how the band would react when he rearranged one song with a cello instead of a muted electric guitar).
The cast's amazing vocals and seemingly infinite reserves of energy do the album justice, but to get to see the man behind the music performing his own songs and acting for the first time was a huge treat. The only thing that seemed off was the obvious lack of a mosh pit.
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