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Green Day-inspired ‘American Idiot’ play to premiere in Columbus at Palace Theatre

Courtesy of John Daughtry

Punks and theater lovers in Columbus may find common ground this week when a Tony Award-winning musical hits the city for the first time. 

“American Idiot,” the musical based on the 2004 multi-platinum Green Day album, is set to visit the Palace Theatre, located at 34 W. Broad St., Tuesday through Sunday. 

The rock opera is focused around three angry young men and their different attempts at leaving suburbia. One goes off to war (Tunny), one heads to the city and finds love and drugs (Johnny) and one stays at home with his pregnant girlfriend and gets stoned (Will).

Alyssa DiPalma plays Whatsername, Johnny’s love interest. She said she wanted the role since she first saw the show about three years ago.

She said the character, who she described as a “freedom fighter” and “mother of the revolution,” is fun to live vicariously through.

“She’s really kind of a hellion, and I’m not so it’s really exciting,” she said. She said she’s embraced the independent spirit and passion of Whatsername in her own life.

The show ran on Broadway from March 2010 to April 2011 and is touring nationwide for the second time. This is the first time the show will come to Columbus.

DiPalma described the musical as an “attack on the senses,” but in a good way.

“(It’s) a lot of noise – really great noise. It’s very emotionally thrilling, mentally thrilling and visually stunning,” she said. “It’s a very extreme show.”

The extreme nature of the show includes sexual scenes, cursing and adult themes. Rolanda Copley, publicist for the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts, said in an email that there is no age limit to the show, but “we ask parents to make their best judgment.”

The styles of the show, punk and opera, might not seem to go together. DiPalma said she found the combination odd at first, but she quickly saw how the two musical styles could mesh.

“Punk rock has always been about sticking it to the man and doing unexpected things that are out of the norm. So making a musical out of a punk rock CD is kind of the most punk rock thing you could do because nobody expected it and nobody expected the success it had,” DiPalma said.

That success partially comes in the form of two Tonys for the Broadway run – one for Best Scenic Design of a Musical and one for Best Lighting Design of a Musical.

DiPalma said rehearsals for the second national tour began in July, and the show has been on tour in the U.K. and U.S. since October. She admits that the schedule is tiring at times. 

“I think the hardest part is how tired we are from the combination of traveling and doing such a physical show, but it’s funny how that kind of evaporates the minute the show starts,” she said. 

The cast has a pre-show ritual of chants and handshakes that she said helps put them in the right mindset for the show.

The plot focuses significantly on post-9/11 America and how younger generations have dealt with the stress and media-inundated culture, something DiPalma said is relatable to the younger cast.

“I think that we all kind of ended up having to live in this very fearful world, this particular generation, and we got kind of stuck having to grow up with a lot of limitations and restrictions only based on fear of the outside world,” she said. “I think that this show really speaks to this generation and says, you know, you have to break through all that fear and all of those restrictions and live your own life.”

Erica Beimesche, a first-year in exploration, said she plans to attend the show to fulfill a theater class requirement but hopes to get more out of it.

“I’m a big theater lover. I don’t know much about Green Day, I’ve heard a few of their more popular songs so I think that making a musical out of that is a pretty interesting topic,” she said. 

The show is set to begin at 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, with performances at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets start at $28 and are available through Ticketmaster or the CAPA Theatre Box Office, located at 39 E. State St. 

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