Prior to the opening night performance for Green Day’s American Idiot: The Musical, I had an amazing opportunity to chat with director Michael Mayer & music director Tom Kitt. Michael is best known for his direction of the award-winning musical, Spring Awakening, for which he received a Tony-Award for Best Director of a Musical. Spring Awakening launched its first National Tour in 2008 with a brief stop in Toronto. Tom is an award-winning music composer and director, having received 2 Tony-Awards for the musical Next to Normal for Best Original Score & Best Orchestrations, which he shared with Brian Yorkey & Michael Starobin respectively. Both these veterans were part of the original team that brought American Idiot to life on stage back in 2009 at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre before moving to Broadway. Now on tour, Toronto is their only Canadian stop and plays at the Toronto Centre for the Arts until Jan 15th. For more details, click HERE
How did you go about saying “Oh yes…that’s something I want to do. That’s a musical I want to put together”?
Michael: I listened to it so much and I loved listening to it in the same way that I loved listening to show albums when I was a kid; it was the same kind of high that I got, and I thought “huh..this is interesting”; its different from the way I listened to a rock album. It’s a different feeling and it tickled the same kind of impulse in me literally like listening to Mame or something. You wanna be like “I WANNA DO MAME!” whatever you know. It was like “AMERICAN IDIOT!” seemed like a show to me. It was as simple as that! So I went to Green Day, to their people and said I wanna do this and the timing was right and they sent Billie Joe to New York to see Spring Awakening which he loved, and we went out afterwards and talked and talked and talked. We were like, on paper we should not be in the same room but we got along great! Tom is the first person I called to jump into this crazy idea with me once Billie said yeah go for it.
When he came to you (Tom) with the idea, what did you think about the whole concept?
Tom: Well you know, it’s a significant point in your life when you can remember where and when that happened. I remember the exact moment I was sitting at my table in the living room in my apartment and Michael called me and said “so there’s this album American Idiot, and, we wanna do a reading of this, is that something you can help us do?” and I just said “yes! yes! yes!”. Its an iconic album, I’m a huge Green Day fan. It meant a great deal to me as an artist and so I desperately wanted to make that happen for Michael and um I think we can all say it’s changed our life to work on this project.
You guys do amazing works, and you do select your work carefully. What’s that one element you look for in anything you do whether it be film or theatre or any sort of music? What’s that one element you feel that okay, that’s it?
Michael: For me the thing is, that it detonates some kind of emotional thing in me so if I can connect to it passionately for however, sometimes it’s the music, sometimes I have an image in my head, sometimes it’s the story or the character. That, that’s the one thing for me.
Tom: I think it’s: Do I need to put my artistic voice into this? Is it something that really excites me? And they are all different kinds of projects. It can be something that’s dark and emotional, it can be something that is light and comedic. I love all kinds of genres. As long as it really excites me, and as Michael said, you can feel like you can put your heart and soul into it and want to spend five years of your life working on it! That’s the other test!
Michael: Cause you do! You realize that! and the older you get you realize that you just have a finite amount of time and energy to put into these things and you know how long it takes and in success you know that you’ll have a tour, you’ll have other countries, possibly other media maybe there will be a movie someday or a TV show or whatever. You wanna make sure that it’s something that you’re in for the long haul.
Speaking of movie, American Idiot? Is there is anything your going about now?
Michael: We are hoping! All the pieces are in place. We just have to um…do it now! There is, we are hoping!
Tom: Everyone wants it to happen
Michael: Everyone wants it to happen!
Oh I want it to happen! I am going to see American Idiot for the first time today and I want the movie to happen before I even see the show!
Michael: Well when you see it you’ll understand that what Tom has done so brilliantly is really take this single voice and turn it into a voice of a series of communities really. There’s the suburbia, the city and then the middle east. They have their own unique sort of voice but it’s this multitude of people. On stage, it’s all metaphorical because everything represents something else, but in a film you can actually makeit literal. So the idea that we could literalize this means that it wouldn’t just be a filmed version of a stage play. You could really explode the whole thing out and make it real And I don’t think that has been done effectively yet with this kind of music. So that excites me too because I think it could be new and fresh.