‘Holiday’ at the theatre

Dare 2 Defy presents American Idiot

By Joyell Nevins

Bring on the grunge. Bring on the grit. Leave the kids at home.

It’s time for drugs, sex, rock and roll and a lot of unrest with Dare 2 Defy’s (D2D) production of American Idiot, from the Green Day album of the same name. The show was put together by Green Day’s front man Billie Joe Armstrong in collaboration with Michael Mayer, who directed the Tony-winning Broadway show Spring Awakening. The original American Idiot album won a Grammy for Best Rock Album and was nominated for Album of the Year.

The musical score is almost exclusively from that album, with some other Green Day songs mixed in (wait till you hear the harmony on “21 Guns”—you’ll be glad it was added). It’s raw and frenetic, with plenty of guitar riffs and drum sets. Warning: it may be hard to stay in your seat. Even the cast is still feeling the energy!

“Everyone is just really excited to get the chance to rock out on this great score and completely free themselves onstage,” says Layne Roate, who plays Johnny, one of the lead characters. Roate’s first exposure to Green Day was listening to Dookie in his dad’s truck … on cassette. (I can’t laugh—I still have a cassette player in my bedroom.)

The musical features 22 numbers and is choreographed by Kimberly Isaacs, who has worked with D2D, La Commedia and the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company. The sets, numbers and 22 cast members make it too big a show for the Mathile Theatre, so D2D is headed across the street to the Victoria Theatre. Although the show is dance-heavy, don’t expect any kicklines or jazz hands.

“It’s got a raw, rock and roll quality,” says director and chief operating officer of D2D Angie Thacker.

But this show is more than a Green Day and punk rock tribute concert. There’s a story of choices and heartache, of friendship, love and loss. The plot follows three young men who are all ready for something else, something new … but who follow very different paths to their “American dream.”

“There’s a really good storyline to this show; it’s not just music,” Thacker says.

Thacker was the driving force behind American Idiot landing a spot in D2D’s production schedule, and mostly for that reason.

“I wanted to give my interpretation of this show,” Thacker says. “I didn’t want the audience to get caught up in the rock and roll and forget it’s about these three guys, too.”

Ensemble cast member Mackensie King explains, “So often the characters can be overlooked in this show with too many effects thrown into the situation. We are really stripping that down and letting the characters develop naturally.”

The three main characters are Johnny, the self-proclaimed “Jesus of Suburbia” (that’s a song for all you non-Green Day fans), Will and Tunny.

“They are fed up of living their boring lives in a small town and are ready to escape,” Roate says.

When Johnny escapes to the big city, he encounters two things that completely alter his life.

“When he makes it to the city, Johnny finds the girl of his dreams, but also the drug of his dreams. This eventually becomes Johnny’s downfall,” Roate details.

Tunny travels with Johnny to the Big City, but then decides to enlist in the army. He is deployed to a war zone, where he loses his leg in battle.

Will chooses to stay in suburbia with his pregnant girlfriend, but has a hard time stepping into a father role. All three friends eventually end back in the same place together, but no longer as boys; they are changed men.

Regardless of what path your own life has taken, the cast and crew feel the audience will be able to relate with many of the emotions and longings of the young men.

“The [American Idiot] album came out when I was in eighth grade, and I was just growing up and discovering who I was,” King says. “Fast forward 12 years later and I still love the punk aspect and how much effect it has on me.”

The young cast includes both D2D resident artists and seasoned performers, and ones new to the D2D stage. But they are all ready to take the show over the top.

“Rehearsals are kicking ass! This cast is so committed and ready to work,” Roate says.

King adds, “The cast bond that has been created in such a short time is amazing. Everyone is working so hard but at the end of the day, we all love each other and that brings an amazing chemistry to the show!”

Want to see a sneak preview of that chemistry? Check out “Dare 2 Defy Productions” on Facebook for several videos, including a live performance of the title song at Blind Bob’s.

Dare 2 Defy’s American Idiot will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday, May 20, and at 2 and 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 21  at the Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St. Tickets can be purchased at ticketcenterstage.com. For more information, please visit d2defy.com.
Joyell Nevins believes in the power of the written word, a good cup of coffee, and sometimes, the need for a hug (please, no Tommy Boy references). Follow her on her blog “Small World, Big God” at swbgblog.wordpress.com or reach her at joyellnevins@daytoncitypaper.com.

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Joyell Nevins
Joyell believes in the power of the written word, a good cup of coffee, and sometimes, the need for a hug (please, no Tommy Boy references). Follow her on her blog “Small World, Big God” at swbgblog.wordpress.com or reach her at joyellnevins@daytoncitypaper.com

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