Hoof ‘n’ Horn’s rendition of “American Idiot” this weekend will be the first production of the show in the Research Triangle.
“American Idiot” is an adaptation of the eponymous hit Green Day album and derives much of its plot from the music on the original album. The musical also deals with the disillusionment that many people experienced in the years following 9/11 and with Green Day’s frustration with the political decisions of the Bush administration.
The musical expands upon these themes from the original album and adds greater depth to the story presented in the music. While most millennials can sing along to “Holiday” and “American Idiot,” they may be surprised to find that these songs rise to greater significance in the musical.
“When the songs are taken in the context of the album and the context of the show, they take on a whole new story,” explained senior Morgan Hoit, president of Hoof ‘n’ Horn. “Intrinsically, Green Day did a great job of shaping that, and then it’s taken one step further by having people embody these roles on stage.”
Senior Kyle Alderdice, one of the lead actors, said he enjoyed the process of filling and expanding upon the characters from the original album.
“It’s actually been really interesting,” Alderdice said. “'American Idiot' was the first album that I bought with my own money, and I enjoyed it, but I didn’t really understand it. Now, having to act these lyrics and sing them and trying to find meaning in them and tell a story with them… they really do tell a story, they’re really poetic.”
As the director of “American Idiot,” Hoit worked with the cast to flesh out the original music with more complex characters. This process allowed the actors to bring their own experiences and interpretations of the characters into their work, rather than following the precedent set by the Broadway production.
“We had a lot of free-form time in discussing who their characters were and where they were coming from,” Hoit said of Hoof ‘n’ Horn’s creative process. “So, when I come in and try to convey an idea of what’s happening in a scene, we’re coming in with the hours of background conversations that we’ve had about the relationships between characters, why they respond to things the way they do and then, in the rehearsal process, things click.”
Alderdice described his and his co-stars’ characters as “anti-institution and anti-establishment.” Frustrated with suburbia, the main characters set out to make new lives for themselves in the city, a sentiment that Alderdice personally identifies with.
“I think [about] the delusions of grandeur that we all have and especially being a senior about to graduate and wanting to do something cool, do something big," Alderdice said. "There’s this blind optimism that I really understand, but this show has also reminded me that a lot of the time these things don’t work out and that reality’s going to smack you in the face."
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Hoit said that though the emotions and pressures faced by the characters are very real and very relatable, “American Idiot” deliberately leaves ambiguity about details of the setting such as location and period.
“You never identify which suburb they’re in specifically, which city they’re in specifically… you don’t know what it is they’re doing or where it is they’re working,” Hoit explained. “Part of that is making it so that any audience member can color it in in their own way… You can slide yourself into these characters.”
The cast has also worked together to ensure that the show engages modern viewers. In this way, “American Idiot” still manages to convey messages that are relevant in the current political and social climate.
“While the album and the show are set in that post-9/11 era, there are three teenage guys dealing with these things and that it could happen now, 15 years ago or even 40 years ago,” Hoit said.
Hoof ‘n’ Horn’s production also bears musical differences from both the album and original Broadway production. In addition to new songs from the album “21st Century Breakdown,” the musical contains original pieces by composer Tim Kitt. In his role as music director for “American Idiot,” Jon Aisenberg, a junior, worked with the cast to re-interpret the music, making the final product a uniquely Hoof ‘n’ Horn rendition.
“The most challenging thing was recognizing that this isn’t just the album 'American Idiot,'” Aisenberg said. “I think the biggest challenge has been translating my previous experience with music directing to music directing a concept album.”
Aisenberg was reluctant to reveal too much about the creative changes to the production's score.
“I don’t want to give anything away,” Aisenberg said. “The best changes are things you’re not even going to notice because they fit with the music and with the production of the show.”
“American Idiot,” will run April 14 to April 24 at Reynolds Industries Theater.