Sex, drugs and rebellion. Green Day’s American Idiot made its Minnesota debut on Tuesday night at the Orpheum Theatre and promises to be the hardest-rocking Broadway musical you’ll ever see. American Idiot star Jake Epstein – playing Will in this rock opera – sat down with us for an exclusive interview about opening night in Minneapolis and all things Idiot!
Q. Did you enjoy opening night of American Idiot in Minneapolis?
Opening nights are always really scary. It’s a new building, a new sound and you don’t know how the audience of that city is going to react to the show. The crowd was great last night! It actually might have been our best audience reaction on an opening night. The energy was great. Immediately when we started, you could see it in everyone’s eyes.
Q. We hope the title Green Day’s American Idiot doesn’t scare away any Broadway fans. What will regular theatregoers enjoy about the show?
It’s a piece of art. What is so cool about the show is that it’s a rock concert, but at the same time it’s visually beautiful. The choreography is so creative. [The choreography] was created from watching teenagers at Green Day concerts and a million workshops with the original cast. Tom Kitt, who wrote Next to Normal, orchestrated the show and took Green Day songs and textured them in the most beautiful way.
Q. There is a massive music scene in Minneapolis and the legendary venue First Avenue is just around the corner from the Orpheum. What’s in this show for the concertgoers?
It’s *expletive* awesome! I think it’s the closest thing there is to merging theatre and a rock concert that’s ever been on stage. It’s exciting to be part of it even if you don’t follow the deep artistic story because you can totally rock out to the songs. If you love the album “American Idiot,” you can see it interpreted in this really interesting way and get a lot out of it.
Q. Is there a moment in the show where you rock the hardest?
I love doing “Jesus of Suburbia,” the second number of the show. It’s a ten minute opus and probably the most fun I’ve ever had on a stage. It’s so tight, but at the same time there’s a looseness to it. There is room for you to express yourself in whatever way you want to that night. It’s pretty thrilling to do.
Q. You have a very impressive resumé with national tours of Spring Awakening and Billy Elliot under your belt, what attracted you to American Idiot?
The album and the whole idea of the show came from such a truthful and honest place. It almost asks the performers not to be actors or singers or dancers, but just to be themselves. There is a genuineness to the show that I think hits people in a way that makes it really exciting to perform.
Q. So there must be a lot of you in your character Will? Is the role personal for you?
Because there is hardly any dialogue – the story is told through song – you as an actor have to fill in who the hell you are. It becomes very personal very quickly and the director Michael Mayer totally zones in on that and wants you to fill in the blanks.
Q. Is that a fun process for an actor- filling in the blanks for your character?
It’s a little scary and changes all the time. I think it makes [the role] terrifying for the performer, but makes it awesome for the audience because no one knows what is going to happen today on the stage.
Q. A lot of critics are calling American Idiot the HAIR or RENT for the next generation. How do you see Broadway and musical theatre adapting?
Broadway used to be the songs on the radio and at some point Broadway became locked in a time warp. There became “Broadway-style” songs. Whatever that means. I feel like now it’s going back to what it was- the music that people want to hear on stage with story. American Idiot takes pop songs and makes them deeper and makes them more interesting.
Q. Last question – if you could bring any rock opera to stage, what album would you bring to life?
That’s such a good question! There is a Canadian artist named Hawksley Workman who I’m obsessed with. He’s extremely theatrical. He is David Bowie meets Franz Ferdinand. I would love to meet him one day, take his songs and make them into a show.
This headbanging, non-stop energy rush closes on Sunday, February 26th, but tickets are still available for every performance!
Student Rush tickets are also available. Policy for American Idiot: $25 cash only, limit 1 ticket per valid student/educator school ID, goes on-sale two hours prior to the show. Rush line forms outside of the theatre. Be one of the first in line for the chance to purchase front row seats!
WHAT THE CRITICS ARE SAYING:
Review: Star Tribune’s “Idiot’s Delight”
Watch: WCCO interview with Gabrielle McClinton (Whatsername)
Listen: K-Twin interview with Talia Aaron (Ensemble)
View: Photos from the Opening Night Party