Oh, how The City loves “American Idiot.”
Green Day’s latter day punk-pop enigma was a creative force of nature when it premiered at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 2009. Then it went on to Broadway and nabbed two Tonys, surprising theatergoers and critics with its visual feats and sobering look at life in post-9/11, George W. Bush America.
Now that the musical, based on Green Day’s multi Grammy-winning album of the same name, is returning to the Bay Area — it opens at the Orpheum Theatre June 12 — audiences can expect more perspective, perhaps.
It’s been nearly 11 years since 9/11 forever altered the lives of Americans. Van Hughes, who appears in the show, says, “It’s hard to remember what life was like before that time.
“I think the play brings up the idea of … ‘How do we continue on in this different climate?” says Hughes, who plays Johnny, a guy desperate to leave suburbia and pursue his dreams in the big city. “It’s more about, ‘How do we find meaning?’ And how we, as humans, can continue to make our lives feel like they matter.”
The tale revolves around three friends, forced to choose between their dreams and the protective nest of suburbia. Their longing for meaning fuels much of the pulse-pounding odyssey, originally directed by Michael Mayer of “Spring Awakening.”
Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong co-wrote the book with Mayer, while Tom Kitt mastered the resilient orchestration, filled with hits, including “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “21 Guns,” “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” “Holiday” and, of course, the title song.
“The play is the universal coming-of-age show,” Hughes says. “In life, you want it all and by the end, you realize you can’t have it all. And I think a lot of people go through that and then they watch this story and it touches them personally. It’s also a kind of redemptive tale about the weariness you should have — about letting sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and hedonism take over your life.”
As Johnny, Hughes also has a direct link to audiences, often speaking to them directly. It’s a long, emotional bridge to cross, but he’s quick to point out that Johnny is relatable and, that, “ultimately, he has to come to terms with himself — all he can do is put his best foot forward and own up to his mistakes.”
IF YOU GO
Presented by SHN
Where: Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., S.F.
When: Opens June 12; 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; closes July 8
Tickets: $31 to $200
Contact: (888) 746-1799, www.shnsf.com