Billie Joe Armstrong, frontman for Green Day and principal composer of the Broadway musical Green Day’s American Idiot, make his Broadway debut this week playing the lead character in the stage musical of the show that he co-authored which is based on the album of the same name that he also co-authored … which, if you think about it, is kinda cool. Here are a few photos from Billie Joe‘s Broadway debut curtain call and some deets about his big night:
Billie Joe Armstrong is not a large man, but he knows how to fill up a stage. Birthed in punk, the Green Day frontman has become a fine rock ‘n’ roll showman. Still, he’s no doubt an artist more used to holding an audience of 20,000 in the palm of his hand than interacting with a cast of professional actors. But on Wednesday night on the stage of the St. James Theatre in New York, he seemed more than comfortable on Broadway, coming off like a pocket-pistol Ethel Merman. Filling in for regular scene-stealer Tony Vincent as St. Jimmy in “American Idiot,” Armstrong had no problem remembering the lyrics, seeing as how he wrote them. As the drug-pushing alter ego of the main character, Johnny, played by Tony-winner John Gallagher Jr., Armstrong did all the choreography and stage business required for the part, including stripping off his shirt and carving a bloody heart into his chest before shooting himself in the head with a toy gun. “Bang!” But his St. Jimmy is a very different animal from Vincent’s, whose sinewy physique menaces with a smoldering sensuality. If Vincent’s St. Jimmy is a starving wolf, Armstrong’s is a rabid mutt, whose brutality is masked by a playful goofiness that makes his needy attachment to Johnny all the more insidious. With his half-shaved head and torn fishnet shirt, Vincent’s Jimmy has an overtly sexual interest in wresting Johnny from the arms of Whatsername (Rebecca Naomi Jones). Whereas Armstrong’s, with his spiked hair and dirty black vest, is more like a demonic Peter Pan, trying to keep Johnny from growing up by sabotaging his one promising relationship. It was fascinating to see how two takes on the same character could be so different and yet so winning in their own ways.
As you may recall, I was able to see Green Day‘s American Idiot on Broadway back in May … and I really, really didn’t like it … at all. That being said, I wish I had been able to see the show with Billie Joe in the lead. I have a feeling that some of the things about the show that rubbed me the wrong way might’ve not existed had I seen Billie Joe in the show. At the very least, I would’ve loved to have seen BJ‘s opening night on Broadway … if only for the kitsch factor. This sounds very cool … and despite the fact that I didn’t care for the show, I’m glad to hear that American Idiot is getting young folks into Broadway theater.