News Column

'Broadway Idiot': Green Day on the Great White Way

October 18, 2013


Oct. 18--"I never thought I'd end up doing Broadway," says rock star Billie Joe Armstrong of the band Green Day, grinning in puzzlement. Nonetheless, the rock musical "American Idiot," based on Green Day's album of the same name, did indeed turn up on Broadway in 2010, running for a year and winning two Tony Awards.

"Broadway Idiot," a pleasant if predictable documentary directed by Doug Hamilton, is the story of how the show got there.

If you don't already know "American Idiot," you might feel a bit like one while watching this film; the musical's plot remains murky, and the song lyrics not always intelligible. "Broadway Idiot" plays a bit like a commercial for "American Idiot"; the likable cast members smile and talk about how excited they are to be on Broadway, while members of the show's artistic staff share their creative vision.

The energy is appealing, and it's fun to see the famous "Gypsy Robe" ceremony on opening night and to play who's-that-guy with star John Gallagher Jr., who's also known as Jim from HBO's "The Newsroom." (Good luck trying to figure out, though, whether a cast member is wearing rehearsal clothes or an actual costume at any given moment.)

But, while agreeable, there's nothing particularly innovative about the filmmaking or storytelling -- this could be the behind-the-scenes saga of any musical -- and it seems as if Hamilton missed a big opportunity. Armstrong, who genially comments throughout, never planned to appear in the show, and he was reportedly gobsmacked when director Michael Mayer approached him. We get just a taste, late in the film, of his experience, and it leaves us wondering.

"I can't act, I can't dance and, compared to a lot of these people, I can't even sing," Armstrong observes cheerfully; you want less of "American Idiot's"? fairly smooth road to the Great White Way, and more about how a punk-rock star becomes, in the words of one critic, "a demonic Peter Pan." Maybe that's another movie.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or


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