Actorsingers’ American Idiot cast members are ready for showtime.
They’ve been ready, actually, for weeks now. Early summer rehearsals consisted of laps around the Actorsingers studio (the dance choreographer joked this was “the summer of sweat”) and down time was spent practicing music or learning the guitar. Most lead singers came into rehearsals already knowing their solos.
This isn’t always the case with a theater cast, especially with a community theater cast; usually, most cast members have other jobs, other commitments and not a lot of time. But the air is different for this show, said Steven Gonzalez, who plays Tunny.
“We know this is kind of a risky show for the theater,” he said. “We know they haven’t done something like this before, and there’s more pressure. We want it to be successful.”
It was Donna O’Bryant Metzger’s opinion that the Actorsingers were due something less traditional, more edgy that would appeal to younger audiences, and she saw their chance when the rights for American Idiot became available this year. Before even asking the board, she and producer Evelynn Decker made a try for the rights, and when they snagged them, she made her case.
“I put together a presentation basically saying, we’re known for doing this type of show. Family shows. Kid shows. You know. This would be our opportunity to think outside the box,” Metzger said. “And they miraculously said yes.”
American Idiot is kind of a stretch for Actorsingers because of its drugs, sex and rock and roll themes. The music is from Green Day’s seventh studio album, and the book is by band member Billie Joe Armstrong and director Michael Mayer (who also directed the original production of Spring Awakening). It tells of three dissatisfied young men, Johnny, Will and Tunny. Two of them — Johnny and Tunny — flee to the city in the hopes to find meaning and excitement, only to find anything but. Will stays home to work on his relationship with his pregnant girlfriend, and Tunny gives up on city life and is shipped off to war. Johnny turns to drugs.
The show premiered in 2009 and hit Broadway in 2010. Metzger, who likes seeing theater in New York, enjoyed the concept album and gave the play a shot. Then she saw it again. Then she saw it in Boston. Then North Carolina. The story, the music, the spirit — it’s basically a rock concert on stage, she said. She was relieved to find cast members who felt the same way as her, young adults ages 20 to about 35, many of whom have never performed with Actorsingers before.
“I wasn’t really sure who we were going to get, but I was very happy and surprised to see we got some really talented kids who were passionate about the show,” Metzger said.
This production acts as an addition to the Actorsingers’ regular season, produced in the summer because it would allow certain interested actors — college kids, mostly — who wouldn’t otherwise be able to because of school. Auditions were open to actors ages 20 and older only.
“It’s not a children’s show. It’s probably not the type of show that normal Actorsingers subscribers would want to see. It’s like we’re going after a whole new audience, which is something the Actorsingers need to do,” she said.
And since this show was so different for Actorsingers, she figured, why not try a bunch of new things. Onstage is a live band, sets are minimal, and for the first time, the company is using extensive social media (not to mention a gigantic billboard on Route 3) to promote the show. Cast members are posting and tweeting, and this year’s programs are techy, too; instead of traditional print, you access the information via smartphone and a postcard with a QR code.