When American punk-rock band Green Day released their 2004 album American Idiot, none of the band members expected it would sell more than 16 million copies, let alone be turned into a musical.
American Idiot tells the story of Johnny, Will and Tunny, three youths stuck in a suburban rut in the US. The musical follows their journey of self-discovery and struggles with drugs, loss, love and war, all set to loud, head-banging songs written by Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong. In short, this isn’t a traditional musical, but that hasn’t stopped the production picking up awards since opening in 2010.
Among the gongs the show has won: two Tony Awards for Best Scenic Design and Best Lighting Design, plus a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.
Alongside the musical-theatre performers is Phil(ip) Jamieson, lead singer of Australian rock’n’roll band Grinspoon. He’s swapped the concert hall for the theatre to play the role of rebellious St. Jimmy, the alter-ego of main character Johnny.
“At the start it was hard to get used to the terminology and the rules of being on stage, but I absolutely love it and I really enjoy playing the part of the villain, plus I get to wear a bad-ass outfit,” Jamieson says. “I’m not ready to sign-up for Les Mis yet, but I’m working with the best music, directors and cast I’ve worked with in 23 years in the industry.”
Jamieson says he was honoured to be part of the production, which he describes as more of a “punk-rock opera” than musical theatre.
“The strength of any musical is its songs,” he says. “All of the songs in this musical are bangers. They’re sick – not one song is the same and I love all of them.”
Since Grinspoon reformed in May 2017, Jamieson has been travelling on the Australian tour of American Idiot, while also slotting in band performances. Rotating the role of St. Jimmy with Jamieson is fellow Australian-rock personality Adalita from the multi-ARIA Award-nominated rock band Magic Dirt.
“I watched Adalita rehearse the other day and she brings her own venom to the role of St. Jimmy,” Jamieson says. “She’s brilliant.”
The set design incorporates multiple screens that project live camera footage taken on stage during the performance. There are strong drug and language references, so the show isn’t suitable for children under 15 years, but that goes hand in hand with typical ’90s grunge. Anyone who has gone through (or is going through) adolescence will love it.
American Idiot runs from February 2 to February 11 at Crown Theatre Perth. Tickets are available online through Ticketmaster or call 136 100.