INTERVIEW:  Jared Nepute from the National Broadway Tour of American Idiot
By Rob Faubion

    First came the acclaimed album, then the Tony Award-winning musical.  Like Jesus Christ Superstar and The Who’s Tommy before it, the rock opera American Idiot - based on the ablum of the same name by punk rock band Green Day - took Broadway by storm when it opened in May 2010.   The National Tour makes it’s Austin debut when it plays Bass Concert Hall from January 14th through 19th as part of the 2013-14 Broadway Austin Series.
    The two-time Tony Award-winning hit musical tells the story of three lifelong friends and disaffected young men - Johnny, Will and Tunny - forced to choose between their dreams and the safety of suburbia in a post 9/11 world. Johnny and Tunny flee their stifling lifestyle and parental restrictions, while Will stays home to work out the relationship with his pregnant girlfriend.
   Like their counterparts in the rock opera Hair, Johnny and Will try to discover their meaning in life as they explore the freedom and excitement of the city. Tunny quickly gives up on life in the city, joins the military and is shipped off to war.
    American Idiot features the music of Green Day and the lyrics of its lead singer, Billie Joe Armstrong.  The Tony Award winner for Spring Awakening, Michael Mayer, directs the production, with choreography by Olivier Award winner Steven Hoggett (Black Watch) and music supervision, orchestrations and arrangements by Pulitzer Prize winner Tom Kitt (Next to Normal).
    Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, actor and singer Jared Nepute plays lead character “Johnny” in the National Tour.  He chatted with Austin On Stage about the show, its message and the anticipation of his first visit to Austin.

Austin On Stage:  What was your first exposure to American Idiot - the original album or the
musical - and what did you think of it?

Jared Nepute: The original album.  I was fairly young when the album came out, so I was more focused on how good the music was rather than the lyrical message about political activism.  Now that I've been working on the show, the opposite has happened and I've discovered how incredibly powerful and brilliant Billie Joe's style of writing is.  I still love the music though.

A.O.S.:  For people who are not familiar with American Idiot, how would you describe this musical?

J.N.: It's a high-energy, 90 minute play with incredible choreography and storytelling, featuring all the songs from "American Idiot" and a few from other albums.  There is very little dialogue, so I liken it to a rock opera similar to The Who's Tommy.  When Billie Joe wrote the album, he envisioned it someday being turned into a theatrical piece, and - with the help of Michael Mayer and others - achieved that in a very powerful and unique way.

A.O.S.:  As a modern rock musical, how do you think it compares to other modern rock musicals such as Rent?

J.N.: I think it has taken what Rent accomplished and pushed the boundary even further by theatricalizing a hit punk rock album.  It definitely took a huge step in the direction of blurring the line between popular music and musical theatre that we are seeing more and more.  For me, that is an exciting and welcoming transformation for the future of this business.

(Photos: Chicago logo [top] courtesy Broadway Across America; Jared Nepute as “Johnny” photo by Jeremy Daniel)
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