American Idiot the musical makes its Chicago debut this week. The show is adapted from the rock group Green Day’s concept album of the same name. Some songs are added into the mix from other singles from the group making this a 90-minute stage musical.
The two-time Tony award winning production follows three young men, Johnny, Will, and Tunny through trails and tribulations while belting out ballads and rock anthems.
Kelvin Moon Loh, part of the cast, is coming to town to teach us how to channel our inner Idiot!
Jerry Nunn: Heyyy, Kelvin. Happy late birthday!
Kelvin Moon Loh: Thanks. I celebrated it in Boston. I will pretend it’s my birthday again when I get to Chicago and we can have a drink.
JN: You are not in town yet correct?
KL: No, the cast and I are currently in Raleigh, North Carolina. We just got here yesterday. We will be headed your way on Sunday.
JN: So some short stops on this tour.
KL: Some of the tour like Raleigh we make short stops. We were in Boston last week. We are excited to be in Chicago and spend more time with you guys.
JN: Have you been to Chicago before?
KL: No, well I did a domestic exchange trip in Wisconsin so we took a day trip into Chicago.
JN: That sounds really quick. This is first time American Idiot has been to Chicago so can you tell our readers about the show?
KL: Sure. The show documents three boys, Johnny, Will, and Tunny based on the choices that they make to leave their suburban lifestyle. The three lifelong friends go in three very different paths.
Johnny ventures off to the city to explore what New York City life is like. He gets into trouble while he is there and meets a girl called Whatsername and falls into a drug situation.
Tunny also goes to the city and finds it not as appealing as he wants it to be. He joins the army and goes to war.
Meanwhile Will the third character gets his girlfriend pregnant and never makes it to the city. He has to deal with the isolation at home.
JN: Three different stories going on then.
KL: Yes, you watch these three men trying to escape their circumstance. I won’t spoil the ending for you.
JN: Don’t spoil it!
KL: They end up going through a very common journey. It is an American story in some way.
JN: Alternative rock group Green Day’s music keeps the story moving.
KL: Most of the music is from Green Day’s award winning album from 2004. There are a couple of songs from 21st Century Breakdown, which I believe is their newest album.
JN: I have heard a lot about the show.
KL: You didn’t catch it in New York?
JN: No, I didn’t. Melissa Etheridge told me about playing St. Jimmy last year though.
KL: What did she say?
JN: That it was easy to fill in for a week but it would be tough to perform that many shows every week.
KL: She did a stint in New York as well as Billie Joe Armstrong himself. St. Jimmy is an unsavory character that Johnny encounters while in the city. It seems to be one of the more memorable parts for sure.
JN: What is your character in the show?
KL: I understudy Will but I am also in the ensemble. It is a crazy ensemble driven piece. It is a 90-minute show and we are onstage almost the entire time. If we are not onstage then we are ripping off clothing to put on a brand new costume to run right back on!
JN: Sounds like a workout.
KL: It is the craziest workout I have ever done. Forget vanity and P90X, I have never sweat so much in a show in my entire life.
JN: Do you have a favorite song?
KL: My favorite song in the show is “Novacane.” The story is told and all three boys are onstage. There is a split screen of what is happening with two of them. Will is dealing with his isolation at home meanwhile there is a beautifully choreographed number with soldiers onstage in what looks like they are encountering a mine field. It is hurtling their bodies into the air. It’s a cool and poetic war montage.
JN: Is there anything special for LGBT audiences?
KL: The truth is I think I am the only gay actor in the cast. I think the show does cater to gay audiences with the punk scene and how it goes. They represent the outcasts. They are viewed as misfits and people who don’t fit in. At the top of the show the lyrics are “I don’t want to be an American Idiot. One nation controlled by the media.” That is the mantra and the whole rebellion of what the show is talking about.
As a gay performer I feel like the show is representing that outside voice, the voice that doesn’t follow the mainstream or public view.
You will see that theme throughout the entire piece. Green Day is saying we are all whitewashed to believe what is beauty and politically correct.
JN: I can see that.
KL: As a gay person we always feel a little bit on the outside and I feel it has that kind of emotional attachment to the piece for that reason.
JN: I heard you are a comic book fan.
KL: I am a comic book nerd!
JN: Me too, that is how I learned to read.
KL: What is your comic book of choice.
JN: I have been reading a lot of DC because of the reboot.
KL: We are not going to be friends. (both laugh)
JN: You are a Marvel fan?
KL: I’m a huge Marvel fan. It is X-men all the way. I see the parallels of the mutant agenda versus the gay agenda.
JN: They totally used that in the films.
KL: I like the storyline. People try to marginalize you and that follows me a lot in my work with the projects I choose.
JN: Is it hard for you to find parts sometimes?
KL: It can be difficult. I don’t know if it’s because I am gay male but I find it more because I am an Asian male. It can be hard to find projects other than the traditional King and I or Miss Saigon.
JN: I saw on your resume you have done both before.
KL: This part is the farthest out of something that I have done. I really sought this project out when I saw it on Broadway. I knew I had to do this show. The music, visuals, and story of the show speak to me. It is very inclusive. It didn’t matter what race, height, or weight anybody was in the Broadway cast. They are all very emotional raw people. They give you every amount of emotional energy they have. I respect that in a big Broadway musical.