The Victoria Theatre Association continues to expand its boundaries in bringing the best of Broadway to Dayton, and will provide a musical theatre experience of a different kind with Green Day’s rock opera American Idiot, playing at the Victoria Theatre March 12 – 14.
A story very much of this era, American Idiot is the tale of three young men who’ve been friends all their lives. The story finds them on the brink of adulthood, and soon they’ll have to decide whether they’ll strike out into the world to follow their hearts or take an easier path and remain in the comfort of the suburbs. The cynicism, ennui, black humor, and paranoia of youth in post-9/11 America is front and center in this Tony- and Grammy-winning show.
The musical is based on punk band Green Day’s multi-platinum 2004 album by the same name. Director Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening) approached the band with the idea of translating it to the stage, and in April 2010, it opened on Broadway with music by Green Day, lyrics by frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, and a book by Armstrong and Mayer. The production ran for one year, with 421 performances logged by the final curtain.
Ensemble cast member Dustin Harris Smith said, “Someone who doesn’t know Green Day will still have a good experience with this show. Right from the start, it’s an explosion, and as long as you — or your parents — don’t mind the F word, then it’s perfectly accessible. It’s definitely not for everybody, but we see people of all ages in the audience and they really enjoy it. The other day, we had a seven-year-old girl in the front row, and we were very happy to have her. As long as the parents are there to accept it, we’ll be happy to yell at your child. Or,” he added, “your grandmother!”
The New York-based actor also occasionally takes on the role of Tunny, one of the lead trio who joins the military and goes off to war. Musical theatre has already taken him abroad as Bobby in an Edinburgh production of Urinetown, and he performed in The Who’s Tommy and other shows during his educaton at NYU and was paid a visit by a casting director while he was still in school. Several callbacks later, he was cast, and workshops of the touring version began in May 2012 as Smith prepared to graduate.
“I call myself The Thrasher,” Smith said, “because I do a lot of the high-octane support in the show. I’m in almost every number backing the three leads and thrashing around. I give all my energy for every performance, which is weird on two-show days, when I have to give 200% of myself. We call them ‘two dow shays,’ because at the end of the day, you’re so exhausted nothing works right or makes sense anymore. When we leave the theater around 11 p.m., most people are going out partying. My party is with my pillow!”
“We just finished our 117th performance,” he said by phone from Hartford, Connecticut. “There’s a lot of belting and screaming, and we do it healthily and have to take care of our voices, but every now and then someone has to take a performance off just based on the wear and tear of the show. There are a few people in the company who have never called out, and,” he added with a laugh, “there is something very wrong with them, and they are freaks.”
When not involved with theatre, Smith has a very unique pursuit as a passionate board game enthusiast with a dream of owning his own game company.
“I’ve produced five or six board games that I’m trying to get play-tested to maybe start a company,” he said. “It’s a small passion I don’t usually tell people about, but it’s very fun for me. Board games are a great way to be face to face with people you know, or don’t know, and get to know how they think.
As his own personal favorite game, Smith is particularly fond of the classic Stratego.
“I’m a big strategy guy,” said Smith, “and if I can get in the head of the person I’m playing, it’s a small victory. The deception and randomness is something I love, that anyone can lay their pieces down in any order, and it becomes kind of a logical guessing game, like chess.”
Smith’s tour with American Idiot will take him all over the United States before wrapping in September after lengthy stints in Tokyo and Seoul.
“We’ve had our share of season ticket holders,” he said, “who are just there to experience something they’ve never experienced, and boy, this is it. The show is filled with spectacle, and there’s a bit of acrobatics… It’s almost like reliving the ’70s era of rock concerts, in a way, but it’s also a very moving piece. I’ve gotten to watch it twice myself, and I laughed and cried both times.”
Congratulations to our ticket winner: Mikee Huber