What it took to bring American Idiot to Seattle stageon June 2, 2012 @ 9:20 am (Updated: 5:34 pm - 6/3/12 )
Green Day's Billy Joe Armstrong performs in the Broadway staging of his theatrical production based on the multi-platinum hit album American Idiot
The idea of turning a hit rock album into a Broadway musical is nothing new, but it's no easy feat. That was the challenge facing Green Day after the band decided to bring the multi-platinum selling smash American Idiot to the stage. So songwriter Billy Joe Armstrong turned to Pulitzer and Tony-award winning composer and orchestrator Tom Kitt for help.
American Idiot would go on to win a number of big awards , and is now touring the country with a highly anticipated run starting Tuesday at Seattle's Paramount Theater.
I spoke with Kitt this week via phone in New York where he's prepping his latest production, a musical based on the hit cheerleading movie Bring It On, about what it took to create the Broadway smash.
"It's a huge challenge especially because you're dealing with an album that is beloved and it would be very easy to see my arrangements and take issue with them if they're not serving the material," Kitt says.
"But because I loved this band and this material so much I really got how it could work. I really thought about George Martin and how he worked with the Beatles because he's a hero of mine and I think the way that he orchestrated around the compositions in a way that the composition never felt like it was tampered with still felt like the Beatles but there was this other layer that George Martin provided. That's kind of what I wanted to do."
It would be easy to dismiss Green Day's music as overly simplistic, run of the mill three-chord rock (plenty of critics and music snobs have taken their share of shots.) But Kitt says the songs on American Idiot are way more than that.
"These guys are impeccable writers. Their material is very deeply layered and complex and I'm a sucker for melody. And this band creates such strong melodic content in their music, you have an emotional response when you hear it. So it didn't feel awkward and wrong for me to incorporate strings and other instrumentation ideas and other vocal ideas because it felt like that's where the music was going," Kitt says.
American Idiot runs Tuesday through Sunday June 10th at the Paramount.
-Josh Kerns/Seattle Sounds co-host
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