On Sunday night at 7:30pm, Jordan Roth engaged in a discussion with director Michael Mayer and Green Day front man (and rock god) Billie Joe Armstrong at the Upper East Side’s 92nd Street Y. Having gone to several of the talk backs this week, I was expecting the be bored but deep down I was hoping for the best. Luckily, the latter was the case and the hour and a half discussion was insightful with really excellent questions thanks to Jordan Roth and a few tweeters whose questions he asked. I felt bad for Adrienne (Armstrong, his wife) when she sat down across the aisle from me and proceeded to be hounded for autographs until the lights were lowered. John Cameron Mitchell was also seated three rows in front of me. I was in L1 (aisle seat FTW!) next a theatre fan who super sweet, though I never got her name. We had a moment and got excited when Roth mentioned “The Book of Mormon.”
When Billie Joe was asked what it’s like raising two teenage sons, he said his sons are more like his roommates than his children now because they’re both taller than him. He also said, “No rules, just guidelines. And I just want to try to relate to them.” Very, very good parenting.
Roth references that Johnny waits until Whatshername is asleep to tell her he loves her and asks if it was the same for him and Adrienne. He says something along the lines of, “It was a ‘i’ll-show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours’ kind of thing.”
Bille Joe talked about how he’s always amused by fans in the front rows of his concerts that will do the head-bang-TV choreography during the song American Idiot. That particularly made me laugh.
The “you’re never too old to leave” quote came from Mayer talking about his track record of directing innovative shows that are about people who are unhappy with their lives and trying to get out. He said Spring Awakening was about teenagers, American Idiot is about 20-something’s, and so he went on to say maybe his next venture will be 30’s, and 40’s… after which Armstrong remarked, “You’re never too old to leave.”
Mayer remarked that he recently watched the show from house left, and he went on to say that if you watch Will (Michael Esper) you see a completely different show. From experience, I can testify to that.
Regarding his nearly 30-year friendship with bassist Mike Dirnt and his 20-year relationship with Adrienne, he was asked how does he keep all of these relationships alive. He said, regarding Adrienne, “I guess I’m just attached to the chick!”
It was revealed that Billie Joe didn’t write his first song (at 14) titled “Why Do You Want Him” about his mother’s boyfriend. It was just to any guy that ever liked a girl who liked someone else.
Billie Joe was asked who he would want to play in American Idiot, to which he replied, “I don’t know. You know, I’d like to be the drummer in the background!”
When asked if he, Billie Joe, had any teachers who really helped him in school, he spoke of his childhood voice teacher and then listed a handful of musicians who were his teachers by inspiring him. The first of whom was John Lennon. Billie, we have more in common than I thought.
Mayer talked about how in the “Golden Age” of musical theatre, the songs that were performed in musicals reflected what was heard on the radio. The same is happening now with the explosion is pop-rock-punk musicals that we’re seeing on Broadway, it’s relating to what we’re hearing on the radio. This really struck a chord with me because I feel like I’m constantly defending rock musicals to my friends who love Hello, Dolly! and the like, and repeatedly proclaim, “That’s not Broadway!” Well I hate to break it to you, but if you want Broadway to survive, it has to move forward and transform. There will always be revivals, because there will always be a market for it but if the only things on Broadway were Oklahoma and Anything Goes, theatre would die because there would be nothing appealing enough to bring a new generation to the theatre and carry on the art form. Thank you, Michael Mayer, for articulating what I have been trying to say for the last couple of years.
He also remarked how we had “an asshole in the White House” after 9/11 happened. Lots of applause! Luckily, for anyone that wasn’t able to get to the 92nd Street Y last night, Sarah has put an audio of the entire talk-back on her blog which can be found here (thank you, Sarah!). Many thanks, of course, to Jordan Roth for moderating and for asking such insightful and probing questions.