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Q&A: TONY VINCENT
Why the 'American Idiot' star remains speechless after this punk rock musical

Metromix, New York (original article)
April 13, 2010
By Aaron Grunfeld

 

This spring, Tony Vincent co-stars in Green Day's “American Idiot,” a stage adaptation of one of the top albums of the '00s. It's the culmination of a short-but-storied career for Vincent that began when he released and promoted a hit single ("Love Falling Down") from his dorm room—a decade before YouTube and MySpace. Since then, he has graced the stages of such productions as “Rent,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “We Will Rock You” and now “American Idiot.” We spoke with Vincent about punk rock on Broadway, the show and about being left speechless after the curtain falls.

How close is “American Idiot” to the original album?
“American Idiot” is basically the telling of the record album put onto the stage. Green Day's ecord was originally a concept storyline. We have worked incredibly closely with Billie Joe [Armstrong, Green Day's frontman] just to make sure that the storylines were true to his intent when he wrote the record. There's a sprinkling of additional characters to fill out some of the various characters' plotlines. But apart from that, it's incredibly true to the story.

What's that story?
It's a very coming-of-age type of story. The show focuses on the central character named Johnny, who is basically the “Jesus of Suburbia” character. Johnny leads a suburban lifestyle with one of his buddies [and] goes out into the city to make something of himself. Then it becomes his struggle with two opposing energies. One is his love interest, the character named Whatsername, and the other is his darker side, an alter ego named St. Jimmy. It's this story of which of these two forces is going to win out in the end.

And you, of course, play St. Jimmy.
He's basically the addiction that continues to feed Johnny's dark side. St. Jimmy tries to occupy as much of Johnny as he possibly can. He is Johnny's drug. We all have our demons and our dark sides and the story presents it as a continual fight, a struggle between Johnny and Whatsername. Really, it's our selfish nature and our giving nature.

How is “American Idiot” different from typical Broadway shows?
To be honest, I think this is incredibly groundbreaking musically. Not just because it's a punk-rock project put onstage, but what it does sonically. It doesn't make any apologies for bring rock ‘n’ roll. We're really fortunate because we have a band that's very aggressive sonically. Brian Ronan, who is the sound designer, was very specific to get the sonic characteristic of what that record does on your iPod, in your headphones, to match the experience in the theater. So it's in-your-face punk rock. Just the genre of punk places this music in a different place.

Can you tell us about how Green Day developed the show?
Before working with Billie Joe, Tre and Mike on this, I never really heard about the vision that they had years ago. And I'm talking five or six years pre-“American Idiot,” they were talking about this concept record! There's a clip on YouTube where they talk about wanting to bring this show called “Jimmy” to a stage presentation of a rock theatrical. I don't know if they realized it would develop into something this massive at the time.

Has the show changed since you joined it?
We've spent a lot of time honing the storyline. It's very difficult to tell a story through song and have very little dialogue. Apart from journal entries that Johnny writes periodically throughout the timeline of the show from beginning to end, there's no dialogue. But I think the thing that's unique to our company is that a large percentage of us come from a music background, we're musicians in our own right. So we all have an attachment to music in a different way. And what's really cool about this process is that the creative team has respected that.

Did you have any concerns about bringing such a unique project to Boradway?
Initially a skeptic of bringing such a massive rock record to the stage, my impression has been just trumped. It's a freight train from the beginning. When that curtain goes up, it's 90 minutes, there's no intermission. It's a full-on experience of visual stimulus. The movement onstage is so visceral that it literally leaves people speechless at the end of ninety minutes. Sometimes it leaves the cast speechless!

“American Idiot” is in previews at the St. James Theater. Performances are Monday-Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are available by visiting Telecharge.com or by calling 212-239-6200.