Last week the official announcement came. American Idiot on Broadway is closing April 24th, 2011. It’s not like those of us who are fans weren’t expecting it. But I think we were all hoping it would hold out just a little bit longer. Other than times when Billie Joe was in the show, it was only selling at 40%-60%. You can’t run a show on numbers like that.
In honor of the closing of the show, I’d like to share about why I love this show so much. Explaining what a show means to me usually isn’t very hard. They are comic relief, or they made me think, or I connected with a character. But before American Idiot, I’d never felt the need to see a show more than once. Sure, there are shows I’d love to have seen again. But nothing made me feel like I needed to see it again. American Idiot did that for me. I connected to the show. I connected to the lyrics. I connected to the characters.
I am not a Green Day fan (or I wasn’t before this show). It really is not my type of music. And the music was a little more political than I liked. On top of not being a huge Green Day fan, I also tend to lean conservative politically. Not in everything, but I do have conservative tendencies. Add those together and American Idiot/Green Day wouldn’t really be on the top of my list of things to check out in concert or on Broadway.
But I saw it. And I loved it, in spite of all the screaming teenagers who are there because they “totally love, love, love” Green Day. The show is actually the story of my generation. Those of us who were young adults when 9/11 happened. We were just getting out into the “real world.” We weren’t sure what we were doing with our lives.
We’re the generation that came from broken homes. We were latch-key kids. We grew up with little parental supervision because our parents were working all the time, or simply just weren’t around. We were raised on MTV and cable television. We lived lives before cell phones and large portions of our lives before the internet.
I will guarantee you that every single person in my generation can see themselves or someone that they know up on the stage during an American Idiot performance. We all know someone who got knocked up (or knocked someone up). We all know someone who got messed up in drugs and partying. We all know someone who joined the military, for whatever reason. I personal know more than one person that I went to high school with that was hurt while in battle.
For me, that person I connect to is an ensemble member (most often played by Leslie McDonel, if I'm not mistaken). Toward the end of the show, after Johnny has "straightened up" and is working a desk job. Some of the cast comes out ready for a professional job. Leslie is in a skirt and shirt, looking professional and ready to work. But like every other person on that stage, still feels trapped in her life. That's me. I'm living an adult life. But I don't always feel like I'm living life the way I should.
Growing up is hard. Being a grown-up is hard. It’s something our parents never told us. They made it look so easy. But even as I sit here, knocking on the door of thirty, I feel like I’m 16 and I don’t have a clue what I’m doing. That’s what all of those characters in American Idiot are dealing with.
Maybe those are the reasons I connect with that show. Sure, I never got hooked on drugs, or dealt with an unplanned pregnancy, or went to war. But those stories are just part of my life. They are a representation of what I, and an entire generation, have dealt with. Those characters on stage represent my friends, my neighbors, and in many ways, myself.
Life doesn’t always have a happy ending. Just like this show doesn’t leave everyone with the ending that would be considered happy. But it does leave you with hope. Hope that you’ll make it. Hope that there is a tomorrow. It may not be the tomorrow you planned on, but tomorrow will come. And you’ll get through it.
Currently, I've seen American Idiot on Broadway four times. I'll be seeing the show a fifth, and final time in early April. I can guarantee that it will be bittersweet parting for me. I plan on wearing little make-up and stuffing my purse full of tissues. I know I'm going to need them.
To the cast members who have made this show so memorable for me, I say thank you for personifying my generation and my life. To Green Day and Michael Mayer, thank you for giving them the chance to do so. Even though a thousand people may tell you how wonderful this show is, and how much it touched their lives, I didn't want to miss my chance to thank you. This show changed my life in many ways. But more than that, it told my story. Thank you for telling my story. It means more than you can ever know.