The new “American Idiot” musical, based on the 2004 album by megaselling rock band Green Day, looks like a natural for Broadway.
“Broadway is absolutely to be considered,” says producer Tom Hulce. “But so is a big music venue.”
Hulce produces with Ira Pittelman, also his partner on “Spring Awakening,” the rock tuner that swept the Tonys in 2007. “Spring” helmer Michael Mayer directs and co-writes the book for “Idiot” with Billie Joe Armstrong, the Green Day front man who also penned most of the album’s lyrics. (Music is attributed to the entire band, comprised of Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool.)
Like “Spring,” which preemed at Off Broadway’s Atlantic Theater in 2006, “American Idiot” will have a nonprofit bow, this one at Berkeley Rep in the fall.
For “Spring,” too, Hulce and Pittelman mulled nontraditional performance spaces once the show proved a hit. And while that earlier musical ended up on the Rialto, “American Idiot” won’t necessarily do the same.
“It’s a project that may not follow a normal path,” Pittelman says.
The beginnings of the project lay in a 2006 interview Mayer had with Variety in which he cited “American Idiot” as a good candidate for theatrical presentation. Hulce called him to find out why.
With the higher profile granted by the success of “Spring,” Hulce and company approached Green Day, which agreed to a six-month exploratory period in which to develop the concept album’s nihilistic coming-of-age story for the stage.
A first workshop was essentially a newly orchestrated and arranged rendition of the album, performed by a cast of actors in their 20s.
Immediately thereafter, the band decided to skip the six-month trial period and dive in, according to Hulce and Pittelman. (Orchestrator Tom Kitt was subsequently tapped by Green Day for some arrangements for the band’s soon-to-be released eighth album, “21st Century Breakdown.”)
Although the show is still in development, some of its outlines have become clear. It’ll likely be 75-80 minutes long, consisting of the “Idiot” album as well as additional material drawn from “Breakdown” as well as B sides and interstitial material from “Idiot.”
Members of the “Spring” design team, including set designer Christine Jones and lighting designer Kevin Adams, are already attached. No cast has been confirmed, although “Spring” Tony winner John Gallagher Jr. is said to be involved. Steven Hoggett (“Black Watch”) choreographs.
The show’s setting will be America, post-9/11 and pre-Obama, but still up in the air are some of the specifics of the story. It’s not yet clear what exactly the narrative arc will be for protag Jesus of Suburbia, his drug-dealing alter ego St. Jimmy and his anarchist girlfriend Whatsername.
“When I listened to it, I heard a loud and clear narrative,” Mayer says. “But it’s complicated, and a lot of it is intentionally ambiguous.”
Also hard to pin down: the right label for the show, which creatives and producers say isn’t a musical, really — or a rock opera. Possibly they’ll settle on punk opera.
Like Hulce and Pittelman, Mayer is thinking of Broadway as one of several potential homes for the piece. “I’m really into found space,” he says. “That would be really cool, because this does defy definition.”