When I heard there was going to be a Green Day musical a while back, I was ecstatic. My days as a teenage RENT-head had left me hungry for another kick-ass rock opera and at heart, I wanted to believe I was still that eighth-grader writing the lyrics to “Minority” on her trapper-keeper in white-out pen.
When I found out the musical would be based on the band’s 2004 album American Idiot, I was less excited.
If you’re going to make a pop-punk Broadway musical using the music of Green Day, it’s easy to see why you would use American Idiot. It’s already a concept album with strong characters and a topical plot. All the writing is basically done for you in a way it wouldn’t be if you were skipping around like the ABBA songs do in Mamma Mia.
When I finally saw the finished product, I found the choice of American Idiot just plain lazy. I would have much rather seen a Green Day musical using one of their better albums, where someone had taken the time to write an original show around the music. A good example would be 1994’s Dookie.
Off the top of my head, ‘Dookie: The Rock Opera’ could be about a listless high school stoner (“Longview,” a song the band’s members said is about smoking weed and masturbating) who goes crazy, ends up in a mental hospital (“Basketcase”) and meets a fellow inmate with whom he falls in love (“She”).
She teaches him to grow up (“When I Come Around”) and they bust out of the hospital together (“Enemius Sleepus”), standing up to the warden and their oppressive parents (“In The End” and “F.O.D. (Fuck Off And Die)”). The girl gets killed in the struggle and the musical ends with the reformed stoner visiting her childhood home to honor her memory. He is now a free man (“All By Myself”).
I know. It took me ten minutes to think of and it’s super brilliant.
But then I got to think more about it, and my first thought was: “Fuck you, Green Day for selling out.” (Well, not really. I still love you, Green Day. Please come visit me like the three Dickensian Ghosts of Warped Tours Past: Christmas Billie Joe, Christmas Tre Cool and Christmas Mike Dirnt.)
My point is that other just as awesome pop-punk bands deserve their own musicals too. What about Blink 182? I’d love to see a musical based on the 1999 album Enema Of the State. That album was formative for me, and not just because it inspired me to Google both “enema” and “sodomy” in the fifth grade.
Here’s what I picture for the Enema of the State musical:
A high school couple is fighting while they’re on a date (“Dumpweed”). We’re introduced to the reckless, fun-loving character of Tom. His girlfriend is crazy but he’s also immature and stupid. She leaves him during this duet.
Tom, a musician, goes to a house party to tell his friends what happened. He’s upset (“Don’t Leave Me”). They get so drunk that they think aliens have abducted them. All the friends sing this song at the party, and it’s also a metaphor for Tom feeling like an outsider even among his buddies (“Aliens Exist”).
Meanwhile, his best friend and band mate, Adam, and Adam’s girlfriend, Wendy, have a tender moment because they’re going to different colleges soon (“Going Away to College”). Adam is going to a really prestigious Ivy League school and Wendy is staying behind to attend community college. Adam is drinking away his sorrows about leaving her. Every high school kid in the audience seeing this on a school trip decides to forgo Sarah Lawrence and get a job at Taco Bell. For love.
The play fast-forwards a few years. Adam has graduated from college. He meets up with Tom, who is still a train wreck. They’re happy to see each other but it soon turns into Adam reprimanding Tom for being such a mess (“What’s My Age Again?”). This song is staged like a musical tug-of-war not unlike RENT’s “What You Own.” I should probably just admit that the part of Adam is actually played by Adam-Pascal-from-the-past. I don’t know. Make it happen.
Anyway, they part on bad terms with Tom revealing that Wendy, who Adam still loves and hopes to win back, is engaged to someone else (“Dysentery Gary”).
INTERMISSION: Everyone gets some Fruit Roll-ups and Gushers as snacks. They talk in the lobby about what a genius the playwright is. A vendor sells temporary tattoos of giant blue butterflies like the chick on the album cover has on her arm. All the old people use the bathroom.
Fast-forward five years. Adam has cancer. He keeps thinking about whether he should tell his former best friend, Tom, who he hasn’t talked to since they fought (“Adam’s Song”).
He’s also filled with regret about Wendy and reminisces about the good times they had (“All The Small Things”). During this song, rose petals fall from the ceiling onto the audience. It’s amazing. The Lion King can literally suck this play’s dick.
This scene is split-screened with Tom also singing about the old days. He misses Adam too.
Plot twist! The guy who Wendy is engaged to is revealed to be Tom! He sings the end of the song to her. Oh no! DRAMA!
All three unknowingly go to a local frat party. They feel old, wondering what they’re doing there (“The Party Song”).
Adam sees Wendy from across the room. He tries to seem like he’s with one of the dumb sorority girls who, in a wink-y homage, is dressed like the nurse from the cover of the album.
He sees Wendy kiss Tom and realizes Tom is her fiancé. He fantasizes that Tom’s and Wendy’s relationship is horrible and unhealthy (“Mutt”).
Wendy and Adam reconnect outside the party. They contemplate getting back together. Wendy misses Adam, but admits she and Tom are happy. Adam tells her that he’s sick and decides it’s time for him to move on from all his past drama (“Wendy Clear”). (Their names are also in the songs! Take that, Green Day!) Adam tells Wendy to marry Tom and be happy.
All three remember when they were younger and the strong friendships they had (“Anthem”). The “slavery” in the lyrics is a metaphor for Adam’s illness. The audience won’t have time to question this total stretch because they’ll be too busy getting out boxes of tissues.
During the instrumental, Adam is dying. His nostalgia turns into him singing full-on hallucinations of being seventeen again. Off to the side, Wendy and Tom get married.
The musical ends with Wendy and Tom at Adam’s side in the hospital. As he dies, he sings the repeated, “I time bomb.” (COME ON. Are you seeing this shit?!)
Curtains close. A projector displays the words “What’s Your Age Again?” The audience exits, contemplating their own mortality while being moved to tears.
Everyone involved wins twenty-five Tony Awards.