Weekender

‘Real life’ takes the stage in Green Day rock opera

The cast of Love and Light Productions’ “Green Day’s American Idiot” features troupe veterans and newcomers.
The cast of Love and Light Productions’ “Green Day’s American Idiot” features troupe veterans and newcomers. Photo provided

Love and Light Productions will present “Green Day’s American Idiot” April 22-23 at The State Theatre.

The troupe chose the musical for its realistic, hard-hitting themes and energetic punk rock song selections.

“It deals a lot with the issues that our society has on a day-to-day basis,” said Alicia Starr, who is the co-founder of Love and Light Productions and the show’s director. “The struggle of just real life; the struggle of living as an adult and trying to make your own way.”

The show follows three disgruntled men who flee their hometown and take separate paths: One joins the armed forces, one deals with an unplanned pregnancy and one moves into “the city.” The rock opera also features themes of addiction and temptation.

The songs featured in the show are straight off of the now-iconic Green Day record “American Idiot,” with the exception of the musical’s finale “Time of Your Life.”

The cast will feature a bevy of locals decked out in their finest punk rock attire.

“We have some new faces,” Starr said. “And, of course, some of are veterans are definitely in it. My husband, Gregory (Mudzinski), he’s playing the lead role of Johnny.”

Mudzinski, aka Mudzo, is a founding member of Love and Light Productions and has been a State College music staple for many years.

“ ‘American Idiot’ is my life,” Mudzinski said “Addiction and temptation are a too real part of me ... Only my wife and family know how close this show hits. I have confided in them through this rehearsal process. I’ve broken down to them a few times when it has gotten too real.”

Mudzinski believes the musical’s greatest strength is its honesty. He believes it has the power to inspire.

“This show resonates so well because it is real and it is current,” he said. “The show was written only a few years ago. It is a ‘real’ show. Everyone has had a friend who has gotten mixed up in drugs and other temptations. Everyone knows someone who ran off to the military, sometimes for the wrong reasons.”

Threre’s also the show’s punk rock style.

“While other genres of music and theater may take a fantastical journey of expression, punk rock has always been and always will be the outlet for the forgotten, afraid, angry and alone,” Mudzinski said. “It is still too common that kids feel ashamed to be themselves and voice their feelings. True punk rock still gives the youth of all ages the chance to riot and rage against all that is wrong with the world. That is what this show is about.”

Starr agrees with her husband that the show touches audiences so well due to its grounded-in-reality themes.

“This musical is very different from anything we’ve ever done,” she said. “It’s very raw and real ... A lot of the characters have gotten in touch with their darker side, their demons that live within them because we all have them. We start to really undress these characters to be able to show you that raw emotion, and I love it. It’s beautiful.”

Much of the cast are lifelong fans of not only Green Day but specifically the “American Idiot” record. Guitarist and musical director Kevin Patterson fell in love with the band and “American Idiot” while still in middle school.

“This was also right around the time I picked up a guitar for the first time, which for me was around 10 years ago,” Patterson said. “For me, this show is major nostalgia for my younger self and the joys of learning an instrument for the first time. The fact that the music has been Broadway’ed up makes it current and fresh at the same time.”

Patterson has been with Love and Light Productions since 2013. Along with Starr, he also believes that the show’s strength is its realistic approach.

“I think this show will resonate with audiences well because many of the songs are songs they know and love but also the themes of the show are so universal,” he said. “Love and struggle are things that everybody experiences, and even though this musical gives them a new twist, I think it can still hit home for everybody.”

Choreographer and cast member Kylie Bumbarger thinks this musical has been the biggest challenge she has yet to face.

“I play Extraordinary Girl,” she said. “I not only had to think about the show from a production and choreography viewpoint, but I had to also think about the show as an actress. Let me just say, doing both is extremely challenging. But, seeing the finished product was well worth it.”

Bumbarger’s love for the musical comes from its lack of filter.

“ ‘American Idiot’ is that thing that everyone wanted to say but no one had the guts to say it,” she said. “Every aspect of this show is just in your face. There is no filter with this show. All bets are off.”

Starr and company hope that audiences in Centre County come out to enjoy the unique spectacle at The State Theatre.

“The music is great,” Starr said. “Seeing songs that you know so well kind of transcend what they are and become a musical, it’s just really neat. It’s a really unique experience. It’s a Tony Award-winning musical which ran on Broadway for years. And, you get to watch these amazing actors and actresses and this great punk rock band that’s behind do what they love. And that’s what we’re all supposed to do with our lives. Come watch their passion.”

IF YOU GO

  • What: Love & Light Productions’ “American Idiot”
  • When: 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. April 22 and 7 p.m. April 23
  • Where: The State Theatre, 130 W. College Ave., State College
  • Info: www.thestatetheatre.org
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