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Loveland youth actors bring Green Day music to life with ‘American Idiot’ punk opera

Harrington Arts Alliance dives into tough teen themes with musical

Roan Willeke (as St. Jimmy), center, rehearses in a scene with other cast members Feb. 6 for Harrington Arts Alliance’s production of “American Idiot” in Loveland.
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Tension, teen angst and trouble will hit the Loveland stage this weekend and the following weekend as youth performance company Harrington Arts Alliance stages the rock musical that’s based on the album by punk-rock band Green Day. “American Idiot” follows the the story of three suburban youths — Tunny, Will and Johnny — who are fighting addiction and values in Jingletown, USA. One chooses to go to war, one is saddled with an unplanned pregnancy announcement from his girlfriend and the third must balance his love of heroin (and the apparition of his drug-dealing alter ego, St. Jimmy) with his love for Whatsername (and her desire for him to get clean).

“I think listening to this music outside of the show, we all see that surface-level angsty, angry beat-the-system and stick-it-to-the-man aspects,” said Wyatt Suit, who plays Will. “But being in the show, you really begin to see the deeper meaning behind the words. You can see that not all of it is super violent, and there’s actually some pieces that are quite the opposite.”

Bryce Schwarz (as Chase), left, Teghan Simon (as Alysha), center, and Roan Willeke (as St. Jimmy) rehearse in a scene of Harrington Arts Alliance’s production of “American Idiot” in Loveland on Feb. 6. (Jenny Sparks/Loveland Reporter-Herald)

“The message that they were trying to convey to the music is much more satisfying,” Suit said, “and I think the show pulls some of those pieces out as well. So, as an audience member, it’s going to be a different experience than just turning on the album.”

“American Idiot,” the concept album, was released by the California-based rockers in 2004 in response to the Iraq War and the musicians’ disdain for the actions of then-president George W. Bush. Now the actors, ranging in age from 15 to 20 years old, who are taking the stage are experiencing the music they grew up with in a new light, and in turn, they said it is shifting their perspective of what theater can be.

“I don’t think any of us have ever done a show like this because there’s not really a show like this,” said Alaina Nobel, who is playing Whatsername the first weekend of the show. “It’s so intricate, and it goes so far in depth to real life and real humanity, that it just grabbed my attention from the beginning. I loved how I would never get a chance to play anything like this ever again in my life, and I wanted to just really challenge myself and try to grasp being punk rock, because it’s definitely not me.”

Actors dance while rehearsing a scene on Feb. 6 for Harrington Arts Alliance’s production of “American Idiot” in Loveland. From left in the front row are Zoey Kelley-Jones (as Heather), Eli Guzman (as Theo and Duclan), center, and Teghan Simon (as Alysha). (Jenny Sparks/Loveland Reporter-Herald)

This theme of a change in perspective is something that Harrington Arts Alliance aims to bring to all of its programs, giving an opportunity for youth actors — as well as the community — to think critically about the world around them through stories.

“I hope people resonate with the story and put themselves in a place of empathy,” said Eli Guzman, who will play Theo and Declan in the musical. “It still talks about themes that people don’t really want to discuss, such as addiction. That can be a hard topic, and we’re doing it in fun way to kind of break the ice. I’m hoping it will start a conversation — and that (people) take away that it’s a fun musical. It’s Green Day, we’re just actors trying to make an impact.”

This particular story, which takes place over the course of a year, doesn’t have a particularly happy ending, as many tales of addiction and loss tend to end. Despite this, there is still an air of bittersweet hope as the cast takes up guitars to sing “Good Riddance” to the audience. Because, according to Suit, even the stories with unfortunate conclusions can still open conversation and make a positive impact.

“A lot of theater gets tied up with a really nice bow and then you step away from it,” Suit said, “but the point of this is that it’s continuing, and on a lower scale it’s happening everywhere all around the world. I think everyone’s going to take something different from the show, but equally powerful.”

Tiernan Troyer (as Johnny) acts while rehearsing in a scene from Harrington Arts Alliance’s production of “American Idiot” in Loveland Feb. 6. (Jenny Sparks/Loveland Reporter-Herald)

Each year, Harrington Arts Alliance produces a community-impact production that address issues such as suicide and bullying, but as this program shows, the group is not afraid to tackle difficult issues during its regular season. And because the program is small, with only 16 actors in this particular production, the directors and other organizers have the opportunity to work closely with the participants.

However, while the message of the production is central to the musical, it also provides a wonderful opportunity to step into a more punk mindset and rock out to some wonderful music.

“It’s just so much fun because basically you just go on stage and you rock out,” ensemble castmember Hannah Jobman said. “It’s like you’re in a concert, and you get to headbang and just go crazy, and people get to watch you.”

Tickets are on sale at harringtonartsalliance.org and will be available at the door.


If you go

What: “American Idiot”

When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Feb. 21- 22

Where: Harrington Arts Alliance, 575 N. Denver Ave., Loveland

Cost: $13

More info: harringtonartsalliance.org

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