For the first time in several years, a local Gainesville theater will ditch its typical family-friendly shows for a way-out commentary on a classic coming-of-age story.
The Gainesville Community Playhouse will debut its rendition of Green Day’s “American Idiot” May 20. Showings will continue on select dates until June 12.
The show, which is centered around the rock concept album released by Green Day in 2004, focuses on the teenage angst spawned by the social state of the United States, the military and the media during that time period.
Audience members can expect a 90-minute performance of all the songs from the hit album.
Dan Christophy, the show’s director, said the band intended for the album to be presented through another medium rather than in concert.
“[Green Day] intended for it to be performed at some point,” Christophy said. “Like as a movie or something.”
The band ended up discarding that idea until it was approached with the proposal of creating a musical.
Full of adult humor and topics revolving around sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, the Gainesville Community Playhouse is presenting something out of the ordinary with “American Idiot.”
“The content of this show is something that normally is not brought to this particular theater,” Christophy said. “There is a lot of adult content because they talk about their lives.”
The production presents themes of unadulterated rawness and authenticity; themes that are not typical of other shows hosted at the playhouse.
The show’s choreographer, Susan Christophy, says the show “Rent” was the last time this theater experimented with suggestive content, and that was 11 years ago. Even though it caused some turmoil, Susan Christophy is looking forward to the conversations “American Idiot” can start.
“We are a theater that is more family-oriented,” Susan Christophy said. “But I don’t always believe that theater should be about entertainment.”
Instead, Susan Christophy said more plays should echo topics apparent in society, which is what this show does.
Besides its mature content, “American Idiot” takes risks in its production by incorporating innovative multimedia.
During the show, several monitors will be on display around the stage. While actors perform their own parts, the propaganda and war scenes displayed on the screens will add another dimension to the performance.
Luke Gilboy, a 19-year-old UF geography junior and an actor in the show, is looking forward to the way these screens can provide depth to their performance.
“A lot of this talks about real issues, like the wars,” Gilboy said. “It’s kind of hard to show the reality of it through just the set alone.”
While the show includes short interjections of dialogue to advance the plotline, a majority of the show is sung in the strenuous rock genre.
With such a challenging score, Dan and Susan brought former UF music student Sarah Sawyer as the production’s voice-specific director.
Sawyer said that most shows have one musical director who oversees both vocals and music.
Because it was so important for cast members to preserve their voices while singing “American Idiot,” this production includes a voice director in addition to a music director.
“If you don’t have really good vocal habits, you can really tear up your voice,” Sawyer said. “When you’re doing eight to 10 shows a week for several weeks in a row, that could really do a number on the cast.”
In addition to vocals, the cast will be joined by a live garage band. The band will play from a “garage” on stage instead of from the traditional orchestra pit.
To emulate the musicality of a real garage band, Dan Christophy asked the three main characters to learn the guitar before opening night. Dan Christophy’s request was originally met by shocked faces, but he said they’re getting close to picking it up.
Strenuous singing and new talents are not the only complications cast members had to overcome in preparation for the show.
With limited stage space and no solid genre, choreographing this musical has proven to be as difficult an obstacle as the other elements of the show.
“I think I’ve only been in one other show that’s had nearly this much dancing,” Gilboy said.
Susan Christophy said the choreography is beyond definition.
“This is a little different in the fact that it’s not hip hop, it’s not African, it’s not musical theater,” Susan Christophy said. “It’s punk, but it’s punk musical theater. It’s a whole different genre.”
Despite the hardships, Susan Christophy said the cast has done a great job challenging themselves to express their character’s internal dialogue through movement.
Directors and cast members said patrons should come with open minds and a willingness to think critically.
Susan Christophy dares audience members to think about who the antagonist of the show is.
“Do you really know the enemy?” Susan Christophy said. “Is it all the people that we want to blame? Or is it a state of culture we have created?”
Sawyer said that the content of the production aims to confront its viewers emotionally.
“If you walk away and you’re not asking yourself questions,” Sawyer said, “you probably weren’t paying attention to the show.”
Gilboy agrees that the musical is demonstrative of history’s tendency to be cyclical.
Though “American Idiot” takes place in the early 2000s, the themes remain relevant even for audience members today.
“There are parallels that you can draw to current events and current issues,” Gilboy said. “The show dives into some real topics and it does a great job explaining and showing these real issues that are going on.”
Overall, “American Idiot” is a show blurring the lines between art and social commentary.
“If you like Green Day, come see the show,” Dan Christophy said. “If you just want to have a rocking good time, this is the show for you.”
Contact Averi at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @averijkremposky.
Averi Kremposky is a senior journalism major at the University of Florida. When she’s not covering music, art and culture beats for The Avenue, you can find her going to a concert, finishing another book in one sitting or submitting to the latest Taylor Swift album theory.