Dan Gleason, a 2010 Penn State University Park graduate in musical theater, is no stranger to the feeling of being on stage.
But being a part of the touring production of the punk-inspired musical "American Idiot" gives Gleason a slightly different type of exhilaration.
"It's awesome, it's like I get to be a rock star and an actor all at the same time," he said.
Jake Epstein as Will in the national touring production of “American Idiot.”
The musical, inspired by the 2004 Green Day album of the same name, will entertain local rock and musical theater fans at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday in Eisenhower Auditorium, University Park.
The one-act show follows three friends - Johnny, Tunny and Will - as they struggle with the hardships of growing up and making something of themselves. Hit songs from the "American Idiot" concept album, including "Wake Me Up When September Ends" and "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," serve as the framework for a storyline that touches topics like love, war and drug abuse.
The original lyrics of Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong were maintained in the musical. Armstrong also helped write the book for the show and made guest appearances during its year-long run on Broadway.
If you go
What: "American Idiot"
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday
Where: Eisenhower Auditorium, University Park
Details: Tickets are $59 and $53 for adults, $44 and $38 for University Park students and $54 and $48 for those 18 and younger. Tickets can be purchased by calling 863-0255 or online at www.cpa.psu.edu/events/idiot.html.
Performance includes mature themes and language.
Gleason, who performs as part of the ensemble and serves as the understudy for Tunny, said he was very into Green Day while he was growing up, listening to some of their first albums including "Dookie" and "Warning."
He said turning an album like "American Idiot" into a musical worked out well, and it's something he's been excited to be a part of since the audition process.
"I think it's artfully done, the way they kind of just use the music and simple poetry to tell this nice story about three best friends who go through the trials and tribulations of growing up in a time where it's a little difficult to do so," Gleason said.
Even for audience members unfamiliar with the album, Gleason said the main characters' vices and virtues make them and the musical relevant to people of any age or background.
"Everyone knows someone like them in their lives," he said. "I just feel like the characters are really relatable to real life."
Scott J. Campbell, who plays Tunny, said relaying his character's drive and "burning need to find himself" has been a unique experience for him as an actor.
"He just burns for identity and direction in life," he said. "So playing that and letting loose a kind of rage is a departure from anything I've done before. I was nice to play outside of type for this role."
Campbell said his favorite songs to perform are the ensemble number "Jesus of Suburbia" and "Extraordinary Girl," where he dances in an aerial ballet. But the entire 90-minute show is "just unstoppable," he added.
"It's really a force to be reckoned with," Campbell said. "It's really exciting to be a part of."
Campbell isn't alone in his praise of "American Idiot." The New York Times gave the show's Broadway production a rave review, calling it "thrillingly raucous and gorgeously wrought," while Rolling Stone said it "cut its own path to the heart" in comparison to other rock musicals like "Hair," "Rent" and "Spring Awakening."
Campbell said the unique draw of "American Idiot" brings in a lot of first time theatergoers.
"It's not your conventional musical," he said. "It's kind of like the current evolution of the art form, where it's at and the direction it could go.
"So I think it's really an accomplishment, and it draws in all different types of theatergoers - not just Green Day fans, not just subscribers, but a whole broad spectrum of people who want to come see theater because of what is possible as a result of this show."
Laura Sullivan, marketing director for Penn State Center for the Performing Arts, said they've seen an increase in ticket sales among students and young adults for these two performances.
"It's not our traditional Broadway patron who has been purchasing tickets," she said. "It's not the same crowd that buys tickets for 'The Sound of Music.'"
Sullivan described "American Idiot" as "edgy, dark and serious," but also balanced out with "tender moments." She added that there is an extremely visual aspect to the show, including the incorporation of multimedia elements.
"I definitely don't think anyone will be bored," she said. "There is so much to look at on stage."
The show opens with the entire cast, backs to the audience, acting as they're staring at a TV while images flash across a large screen. Gleason said this is meant to signify how people can be "brainwashed by the media," adding that this and other political connotations from the "American Idiot" album were not lost on the musical.
"Right from the start, we're kind of calling out the media and how it tries to control the way Americans think," he said. "That's obviously still relevant today."
Campbell said Green Day's original political messages may be even more meaningful presently, especially with things like the Occupy movement.
"I think it's always going to be relevant, this message of identity and living in the U.S. [with] the world conflict that this nation is involved in," he said. "It's going to resonate for some time."
Sullivan said she thinks of "American Idiot" more simply as "good theater" than as a political piece. And because the touring production includes Equity actors and some members of the Broadway cast, Sullivan added that coming to see the show should make for a "great night."
Gleason said he's glad this tour can bring "American Idiot" to people who wouldn't be able to see the show otherwise.
"There are people of all ages, all across America, that I think can really relate to this story, not just people who live in New York," he said.
Campbell said each city they've performed for so far have responded differently, but each audience keeps one thing in common.
"At the end of the show, they're always up on their feet one way or another," he said. "Every city is a different experience, but it's really a privilege to go out and bring this piece of art to the American people."
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.