"Call it ignorance," American Idiot director Gary John LaRosa says, having some fun at his own expense and searching for the right way to explain why he'd never given punk rock a chance.
LaRosa's musical tastes were always eclectic, but he was classically inclined. He liked opera and was in the business of staging Broadway-style musicals. He never thought he'd like snotty-boy guitar anthems, so, when Green Day's concept album-turned-musical hit Broadway in 2010, LaRosa wasn't eager to go see it. "I didn't think a punk group's music would appeal," he says. "But for 90 minutes there was an explosion of energy and this visually rich storytelling. I was blown away. I was moved, which is the last thing I expected to feel."
LaRosa was sucked in by the music and caught up by the story of three media-saturated high school buddies from the suburbs looking for a way to escape. Battles with boredom, addiction, and America's sworn enemies ensue.
Set against the backdrop of George W. Bush's presidency, Broadway's American Idiot used cutting-edge digital projection technology to flood the stage with news clips from sources like CNN and Fox. Unfortunately, not every theater can spend $18 million dollars to capture the spare, DIY essence of punk. Not to fear, LaRosa, who's become an enormous fan of the show's music and Billie Joe Armstrong's lyrics in particular, thinks the musical's content is better served by a lower tech approach.
"It reminds me very much, generations later, of Hair," LaRosa says, "because of the complete dissatisfaction with the status quo and the bill of goods being sold in Vietnam. There are so many parallels. I think the musical score is an important one, and there's a lot there you lost on Broadway because of the spectacle. I'm trying to flesh that out and make it more important."