American Idiot has something its taboo-baiting predecessors didn’t: an already-smash soundtrack courtesy of Green Day, the Bay Area band largely responsible for taking punk rock from the snarling, safety-pinned fringes to the multiplatinum mainstream over the past two decades.

The surprise in this fast-moving 90-minute spectacle (originated at California’s Berkeley Rep) isn’t seeing a genre known for its often-atonal three-chord angst brought to the stage, it’s how easily the songs lend themselves to an all-jazz-hands-on-deck milieu. The show’s 21 musical numbers — primarily from the trio’s 2004 album American Idiot, plus last year’s 21st Century Breakdown — have their rock-operatic tendencies magnified and exalted by the young, committed cast.

American Idiot is a rousing, cannily assembled stage spectacle. While it might not attract the traditional theatergoers who championed Rent and Spring Awakening, expect fans of Green Day and fans of rock concert musicals to help fill the theatre.

303 Magazine took the time to catch up with Will (Jake Epstein) and Whatsername (Gabrielle McClinton) to talk about their entrance into the world of theatre, Green Day and the show in general.


Gabrielle McClinton (Whatserame) and Van Hughes (Johnny) in AMERICAN IDIOT (Photo by Doug Hamilton)

303: What is your first memory of musical theatre? Where you hooked instantly or did it take time to develop?

JE: My first musical theatre memory is my parents taking my sister and I to see ‘Big: The Musical’ on Broadway when I was ten. It was the greatest thing I had ever seen… there were kids singing, dancing, skateboarding on stage… found out years later that ‘Big’ was considered a flop on Broadway, but to me it was incredible.

GM: My first memory of musical theatre is when I played the the Mayor of Munchkin City in the Wizard of Oz when I was seven years old. I was constantly performing around the house, putting on solo shows or just dancing on the coffee table, singing at the top of my lungs. Once I had the chance to actually perform on stage, I knew I’d be hooked forever.


303: Do you consider yourself a theatre nerd?

JE: I think I’m a wannabe theatre nerd.

GM: Definitely. This is my passion-what I want to do for the rest of my life. I think it’s extremely important to keep up with the arts and find what inspires and challenges you as an actress.


Scott J. Campbell (Tunny), Van Hughes (Johnny) and Jake Epstein (Will) in AMERICAN IDIOT (Photo by Doug Hamilton)

303: What was your first impression of American Idiot?

JE: I remember thinking it was the closest thing I had ever seen to a rock concert on stage. It was complete chaos that was somehow controlled. I loved it.

GM: No words. My mind was blown and that was just from watching clips online. This is like no other show. I cried, laughed, felt angry, reminisced about the past, and pondered the future. I instantly knew it was a piece that would change my life


303: Why do you think she is called Whatsername?

GM: I think Whatsername stands as a symbol of how easily you can lose important people and things in life and how time flies by without you ever really noticing. She comes into Johnny’s life for a reason, but he’s too wrapped up in himself to even remember her name. She reminds everybody to focus on the other person and it’s not always about ME, ME, ME


303: How is musical theatre different from your time on Degrassi? Do you still keep in contact with any of your peeps from Degrassi?

JE: They are two totally different worlds. But at the end of the day, they’re each just different versions of storytelling. I do keep in touch with some people from Degrassi- it was like my second high school.

Jake Epstein (Will) in AMERICAN IDIOT (Photo by Doug Hamilton)

303: Where you a Green Day fan before this production?

JE: I was. My first concert I ever went to was a Green Day concert. It really inspired me to start playing music and to get up in front of people and perform.

GM: Yes. I wasn’t familiar with lot of their earlier music, but I eventually caught on. After doing this show, I’m crazy about them. They speak to the soul.


303: Do you think Green Day is iconic enough to have its own musical?

JE: Who knows? But they’re songs are awesome and their message is really poignant. Doesn’t that make for a great musical, whether or not the band is iconic?

GM: Yes. I wasn’t familiar with lot of their earlier music, but I eventually caught on. After doing this show, I’m crazy about them. They speak to the soul.


Front from left, Leslie McDonel, Gabrielle McClinton (Whatsername) and Krystina Alabado. Back from left, Talia Aaron, Nicci Claspell and Jillian Mueller in AMERICAN IDIOT (Photo by Do

303: What have you learned most since beginning this tour?

JE: How to trust your place in a huge puzzle that’s bigger than you. The best way you can contribute is to only do your part, and not try to do more than that.

GM: To be honestly present in every moment whether I’m on stage or in life. It’s something I’ve always known but hard to remember. It will only enrich your life as a person and actor.


303: What is the most powerful moment in the show for you?

JE: For me the most powerful moment is in Wake Me Up When September Ends: the simplicity of the three guys just sitting and singing about wanting this pain to pass, and having the whole cast walk out one by one, with the image of papers being blown. It’s haunting.

GM: Letterbomb. I have the chance every night to display the strength of women. The show is very male dominated; therefore, it feels extra good to rile up some strong women and demand to be heard.


303: What do you think is Will’s biggest struggle throughout the show?

JE: His struggle is internal. He doesn’t want to take responsibility for his life and as a result decides to do nothing but sit on a couch, hoping everything will somehow resolve itself.


303: What do you and your character have in common?

JE: We have many personal things in common. We also both base our lives around music.


American Idiot
Mar 6, 2012-Mar 11, 2012
The Buell Theatre
Tickets start at $20
Performance times:
Tues-Sat at 8pm
Sat & Sun at 2pm
Sun at 7:30pm
Run time: 1 hr 35 min no intermission