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Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong: 'American Idiot's' newest Broadway belter

Green Day completed the jump from Berkeley to Broadway earlier this year when the musical inspired by the act's blockbuster 2004 album, "American Idiot," officially opened at the St. James Theatre in April. Now, Green Day lead singer Billie Joe Amrstrong will spend time off next week from his punk rock bandmates singing and emoting on the Broadway stage, temporarily stepping in for Tony Vincent to assume the role of St. Jimmy.  

Armstrong will appear in the musical Tuesday through Oct. 3, and then will join his band on tour in South America. Vincent will return to the production Oct. 12, having to briefly leave "American Idiot" for what a press release distributed today described as a "personal family matter." Following Armstrong's short run, understudies Joshua Kobak and Andrew Call will fill in for Vincent until he returns. 

In St. Jimmy, Armstrong will take on a pivotal role in the musical. Though not the ensemble cast's lead, which belongs to John Gallagher Jr.'s Johnny, St. Jimmy is the musical's drug pusher and all-around bad dude, sending the suburban-raised Johnny into a drug-addled spiral of nowhereness and empty relationships. By taking on the role of St. Jimmy, the good news for Armstrong -- and perhaps the bad news to audience members -- is that the rock star won't have to partake in any of the show's major simulated love scenes. But look for Armstrong to tackle moments of "Know Your Enemy" and "Last Night on Earth."

Green Day die-hards who have had a difficult time adjusting to the idea of the once snotty punk-pop act joining the ranks of the Broadway establishment will no doubt cringe a little at the idea of Armstrong cavorting onstage with the production's acclaimed theatrical performers. Tickets for the show, which as of the time of this posting are still available for Armstrong's week, start at $49, but a pair of good orchestra seats carry a final non-punk price tag of $262.50, once service fees are added in. 

Yet Green Day's own concerts of late have become a near-theatrical production themselves. The act is a long way from its 924 Gilman St. days, and no longer shies away from arena-rock antics such as pyrotechnics, sing-along ballads and extended medleys. The band even brought the cast of "American Idiot" to the Grammy Awards, and Green Day has already made a surprise appearance at the St. James Theatre. 

For this particular rock critic, I saw "American Idiot" in early September, and I went in a skeptic. A simple Google search will reveal that I have come down hard on some of Green Day's Broadway ambitions, but I can't deny that I emerged pleasantly surprised from the musical. Make no mistake, I would much rather see Green Day perform the songs of "American Idiot" in their entirety, and without the aid of the talented cast of "American Idiot."

Though any rock concert is somewhat staged, with a band channeling and capturing the feelings the songs conveyed at the time of writing, Green Day-sans Broadway is a sharper, louder, more aggressive and a stronger rush of emotions. There is the slight nagging sensation that "American Idiot" is a tidied-up Green Day, fashioning the outcasts in suits and ties for a day to not disappoint the grandparents. Nevertheless, though I don't pretend to be or have ambitions to be a theater critic, "American Idiot" doesn't significantly tamper with Green Day's arrangements in bringing them to the Broadway stage, with most of the songs performed with minimal theatrical adornments.  

Those of us at Pop & Hiss are no doubt stuck on the West Coast while Armstrong takes on the role of St. Jimmy -- although I'd be lying if I didn't note that my curiosity at how Armstrong handles himself onstage didn't send me looking for last minute airfares. So, those who catch the show, especially longtime Green Day fans, please report back. 

-- Todd Martens

Video above: Green Day with the cast of "American Idiot" at the 2010 Grammy Awards. 

Comments () | Archives (11)

If you're a fan of Green Day you are not a fan of music.

i saw greenday in concert at the shoreline, for there final US 2010 tour. for three hours long they played their heart out and rocked the house. More then just a concert, they have a direct connection with there fans, the concert felt like a lovefest. I took my 10 and 8 year old boys. They are big greenday fast. we all had a magical evening.


nico van dongen san francisco

Wimp. Get on a plane and do your job.

I live in LA as well. Saw AI in Berkeley, saw it again on Broadway. Getting on a plane Tuesday to see it (again) with its creator in the role of St. Jimmy.

"Please report back" my ass.

Hey Zenon,
I'm no wimp! Griffith Park, by the bike racks on Tuesday. 3 p.m.

I'm kidding. But I love any excuse to go to N.Y. Only problem is us rock critics aren't exactly upper-class critters. I am still toying with the idea of going, but if I pay my own way I'm definitely not doing my job, either, as that would be vacation. There certainly wouldn't be a laptop or Blackberry making the cross-country trip with me.

fans who are having a hard time adjusting to green day's music on broadway are not die hard fans. die hard fans grow, evolve with bands.
"fans of green day are not fans of music"? go choke on something.
i can't wait to see the broadway performance of american idiot in december!

Okay, Todd, I feel you. I've been unemployed for 3 (count 'em, 3!) years, so I understand work/vacation issues. But jeez, go to NY, take your laptop, it's not work, it's the godhead that is Green Day. (Yes, I do love the band.)

And, Bill? Not a fan of music? Grow a pair (of ears, that is).

Your point is noted, Zenon. I'll see what I can do. Cheers,

and really Todd - what, you can't write the trip off as a business expense?

This is as silly as fans of the Who's My Generation not being able to handle Tommy or Who's Next. Great bands grow and move on (except the Ramones). It would be pretty dumb for these guys to still be singing about picking boogers.

I saw the show tonight. It was great, and Billie Joe was surprisingly persuasive as a musical artist. He blended in perfectly, even moved like he was supposed to... And what a noise when he appeared on stage!
I can only think of how it would look like if my fellow countryman Benny Andersson would take over one of the bigger roles in "Mamma Mia"...



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