‘American Idiot’ coming to Toledo on March 2Written by Matt Liasse | | firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2004, Green Day released “American Idiot,” a song criticizing the state of the United States under then-President George W. Bush.
“When it was written, it was that post-9/11 Bush era with sort of high paranoia and fear with all the propaganda being spit out,” said Carson Higgins, a cast member in the musical of the same name.
The show will rock in the Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd., at 2 and 7:30 p.m. on March 2. The show is 90 minutes with no intermission.
The song “American Idiot” appeared on the album of the same title along with hits “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “Holiday” and “Wake Me Up When September Ends.” The rock opera went on to win a Grammy Award for Best Rock Album and, five years later, was made into a musical by Michael Mayer, known for “Spring Awakening.”
“‘American Idiot’ felt so complete to me,” Mayer said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine. “[It] has a huge emotional arc. There was an amazing narrative that was, at times, perplexing and ambiguous, but also so full of possibilities with a multitude of voices. Some of the songs — I heard them as dialogue.”
Higgins said the production has a story arc and characters. It’s more like a musical than a concert.
The show follows a group of suburban youths unhappy with the state of their home in Jingletown, USA, so they make their way to city life. Among the topics covered by the show are pregnancy, drugs and war.
“It’s the most physically demanding show I think you could even be in, apart from Cirque du Soleil,” Higgins said.
St. Jimmy, played by Higgins, is a drug dealer character introduced in the album’s sixth track. The role has been played on Broadway by Melissa Etheridge, “The Voice” contestant Tony Vincent and Green Day’s own Billie Joe Armstrong.
“He’s very much the rock star of the show,” Higgins said. “There’s a whole musical going on, I like to think, and then all of a sudden it’s the St. Jimmy show every once in a while.
“Literally, he comes out and he’s just very exciting and in your face,” Higgins said. “He kind of gets to break the fourth wall every once in a while — what’s not to like? I get to wear these awesome costumes and come out and sing some badass songs.”
Higgins has always been a fan of Green Day; the first album he ever owned was the 1994 release “Dookie.”
When “American Idiot” came out, Higgins said he remembers listening to the album while delivering pizzas, thinking it would make a good musical.
“The second song on the album is ‘Jesus of Suburbia,’ and it’s like a nine-minute song. I was listening to it and I was like ‘God, this should be on a stage,’” Higgins said.
Higgins has been in the cast since 2012, working his way up from the ensemble to his current role. He’s traveled all over the world, including across America, Europe and Japan.
Some may recognize Higgins, of Malibu, Calif., as a contestant from “American Idol,” about whom then-judge Steven Tyler from Aerosmith said, “If we bottled your fire, we could light all of LA.”
“At the time, I was more nervous to be in front of J. Lo because she was so strikingly gorgeous,” Higgins said. “I had a crush on her when I was younger.”
Higgins got the idea to audition for the show from the kids at a beach camp where he worked as a counselor. His goal was to just have his audition aired on television so the kids could see it.
“When I went, they just kept saying, ‘Yes,’” he said. “I never in a million years thought I was going to make it into Hollywood week.”
He is glad he did “American Idol” because it opened doors for “American Idiot.”
“It taught me a lot about myself,” he said.
Tickets for the show start at $28 and are available at theaterleague.com and stranahantheater.com, by visiting the box office or by calling (419) 381-8851.
Higgins said the message of the show will resonate with people of all ages, given the mature content.
“By the end of the show, what I found personally and [by] talking to people who’ve seen [it], they’re really kind of taken aback by the fact that the message winds up being that America is whatever you want it to be and you have to fight to make it what you want it to be,” Higgins said. “It isn’t necessarily the America that was sold to us when we were younger. This cookie-cutter, white picket fence American family is a minority and a rarity nowadays. … America has changed forever post 9/11.”