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Berkeley Rep Theatre Announces John Gallagher, Jr., Matt Caplan, Michael Esper & More In AMERICAN IDIOT

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Berkeley Rep Theatre Announces John Gallagher, Jr., Matt Caplan, Michael Esper & More In AMERICAN IDIOT

Today, Berkeley Repertory Theatre announced the cast for its world premiere of American Idiot. Based on the Grammy Award-winning album of the same name, the show features the music of Green Day and the lyrics of its frontman Billie Joe Armstrong. American Idiot is being staged by Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer, who also collaborated with Armstrong on the story. Tony-winning actor John Gallagher, Jr. plays Johnny, leading an ensemble of 19 young performers that also includes Matt Caplan as Tunny, Michael Esper as Will, and Tony Vincent as St. Jimmy with Mary Faber as Heather, Rebecca Naomi Jones as Whatsername, and Christina Sajous as Extraordinary Girl. Berkeley Rep presents the show in association with Tom Hulce and Ira Pittelman, the lead producers of Spring Awakening.

American Idiot runs from September 4 through October 11, opening Berkeley Rep's 2009/10 season in the state-of-the-art Roda Theatre. Tickets are available now as part of a subscription to the season, which includes six other hot new shows. The remaining seats go on sale to the public on August 7 at berkeleyrep.org, starting at only $32 - half that for those under 30 years of age.

"We've been working with the cast on this show for the past several months," Armstrong remarks, "so we've seen first-hand what amazing actors they are. We continue to be impressed with how they are handling and interpreting the material. Their talent has truly brought the album to life in a really incredible way."

"This wildly gifted company is investing every fiber of themselves in this material," Mayer comments. "They're bringing depth and passion to their characters, and singing the shit out of the songs. Watching them inhabit the kinetic dynamism of Steven Hoggett's brilliant choreography takes my breath away. It's a rare honor to be blessed with such devoted and spectacularly imaginative performers."

"From the moment they arrived at Berkeley Rep, it has been exhilarating to watch these actors throw themselves into this project, and to see the energy build as they collaborate with our staff," adds Tony Taccone, the Theatre's artistic director. "We are pumped up about American Idiot and can't wait to share it with our audience."

Green Day won two Grammys - Best Rock Album and Record of the Year - for its multi-platinum American Idiot, which sold more than 12 million copies worldwide. Now the band brings that explosive album to the stage with the director of Spring Awakening, which nabbed eight Tony Awards in 2007. With an onstage band, American Idiot follows working-class characters from the suburbs to the city to the Middle East. In an exhilarating journey borne along by Green Day's electrifying songs, they seek redemption in a world filled with frustration. This high-octane show includes every song from the album, as well as several songs from Green Day's new CD, 21st Century Breakdown. The world premiere takes off at Berkeley Rep, the Tony-winning playhouse that launched last year's provocative rock musical Passing Strange.

American Idiot earned effusive praise from the press upon its release. It is "a fearless and politically astute rock album, a richly melodic song suite that gives voice to the disenfranchised suburban underclass of Americans," declares Rolling Stone. "The ambitious American Idiot joins an elite list of albums, such as The Who's Tommy, Pink Floyd's The Wall, and The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, that successfully weave a narrative through music," asserts Amp. "For an album that bemoans the state of the union, it is irresistibly buoyant," adds Time. "You will hear a story about Jesus of Suburbia, his dangerous friend St. Jimmy, and a heroic girl called Whatsername, who are struggling to express their individuality in a mass-media culture."

The cast showcases seven respected performers. Matt Caplan (Tunny), a guitarist who has released three CDs, appeared on Broadway in Rent and South Pacific, on TV in Fox's New Amsterdam, and on film in Across the Universe and Painting Abby Long. Michael Esper (Will) made his Broadway debut last fall in A Man for All Seasons. His many other credits include the recent premiere of The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures by Tony Kushner. Mary Faber (Heather) performed on Broadway in Avenue Q. She has also been seen off Broadway at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, and the York Theatre Company, and in improv and sketch comedy shows at Ars Nova, The Second City: NYC, and the Upright Citizens Brigade. John Gallagher, Jr. (Johnny) earned a Tony Award for his portrayal of Moritz in Spring Awakening. His other credits include Rabbit Hole on Broadway; Current Events, Farragut North, Kimberly Akimbo, and Port Authority off Broadway; and films such as Woody Allen's Whatever Works and Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret. Rebecca Naomi Jones (Whatsername) performed in Passing Strange at Berkeley Rep, off Broadway, on Broadway, and on film. Previously, she toured with Caroline, or Change; Little Shop of Horrors; and Rent; her recent credits include This Beautiful City and Wig Out! at Vineyard Theatre. Christina Sajous (Extraordinary Girl) appeared in the national tour of Rent. Her New York credits include King Lear with the Classical Theater of Harlem and Wild Party at Culture Project. In concert, she has been a featured artist with Patti LaBelle, Musiq Soulchild, and Chrisette Michelle. Tony Vincent (St. Jimmy) has performed on Broadway in Jesus Christ Superstar and Rent, and in London and Las Vegas in We Will Rock You. He has performed as the frontman for the rock band Queen on several occasions, including Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee and Party in the Park.

These artists are supported by an ensemble of 12 young talents. Declan Bennet, a songwriter with two CDs, appeared on Broadway in Rent and on the West End in Taboo. Andrew Call performed on Broadway in Cry Baby, Glory Days, and High Fidelity and off Broadway in Altar Boyz. Gerard Canonico made his Broadway debut at eight years old as Gavroche in Les Misérables; more recently, his credits include Spring Awakening on Broadway. Miguel Cervantes portrayed Chip on Broadway and in the national tour of The Putnam County Spelling Bee; his other credits include Happiness at Lincoln Center. Joshua Henry performed in Serenade off Broadway, In the Heights on and off Broadway, and in TV shows such as Kings and Sex and the City. Brian Charles Johnson appeared in the Broadway and off-Broadway productions of Spring Awakening, and in workshops of noted shows at Manhattan Theatre Club and Roundabout Theatre Company. Chase Peacock has performed for North Carolina Theatre, Paper Mill Playhouse, and the first national tour of Disney's High School Musical. Theo Stockman was named Best Leading Actor at the InterNational Theatre Festival in Warsaw before appearing in the off-Broadway and Broadway productions of Hair. Ben Thompson performed in Cyrano de Bergerac at the Metropolitan Opera and in national tours of Big River, HSM, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Alysha Umphress has been seen on screen in Across the Universe, off Broadway in Make Me a Song, and as an opening act for Diana Krall. Morgan Weed appeared off Broadway in the world premiere of Saved and regionally in world premieres of Bowery Boys, The Boys are Coming Home, In the Bubble, and Was. 

Libby Winters' stage credits include the New York Musical Theatre Festival and New York Stage and Film; she also sings and plays guitar for The Fabulous Entourage.

Green Day - vocalist/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt, and drummer Tré Cool - were loud, snotty, scrappy kids from working-class backgrounds who came of age in the underground punk scene in Berkeley. Even though they had released two records prior (1039 / Smooth Out Slappy Hours and Kerplunk), they announced their arrival with 1994's Dookie, a dynamic blast of exuberant three-chord punk-pop that spoke to bored teenagers everywhere. The album eventually sold 15 million copies, earned the band its first Grammy Award, and inspired a raft of imitators. Over the years, Green Day continued to top the charts with their subsequent studio albums Insomniac, Nimrod, and Warning while entertaining millions of fans with their frenetic live shows. But it was their landmark 2004 album American Idiot that launched Green Day into the stratosphere. "Jesus of Suburbia" set the tone by telling a tale of the choice between self-destruction and redemption that resonated with listeners of all ages, nationalities, and political persuasions. American Idiot debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard chart. It spawned five hit singles, earned seven Grammy nominations (winning two, including Rock Album of the Year), and raised the bar for modern rock and roll. This year, Green Day released its new album 21st Century Breakdown, which has been certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America, and embarked on a world tour. For more information on Green Day, visit greenday.com.

American Idiot features the work of Olivier Award-winning choreographer Steven Hoggett with Tony-winning composer Tom Kitt providing music supervision, arrangements, and orchestrations. The design team includes Tony-nominee Christine Jones (sets), two-time Tony-winner Kevin Adams (lights), Baryshnikov fellow Andrea Lauer (costumes), and Obie Award-winner Brian Ronan (sound), as well as video designer Darrel Maloney.

The show is supported by several contributors to Berkeley Rep's Annual Fund. Bill Falik and Diana Cohen, John and Helen Meyer, Sally Smith and Don Burns, the Strauch Kulhanjian Family, and Felicia Woytak and Steve Rasmussen serve as executive producers. The lead sponsor is Levi's®, and the show is also sponsored by the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation.

Born in a storefront, Berkeley Rep has moved to the forefront of American theatre - and is still telling unforgettable stories. In four decades, four million people have enjoyed more than 300 shows at Berkeley Rep, including 51 world premieres. In the last four years alone, Berkeley Rep has helped send four shows to Broadway: Bridge & Tunnel, In the Next Room (or the vibrator play), Passing Strange, and Wishful Drinking. Founded in 1968, the Theatre quickly earned respect for presenting the finest plays with top-flight actors. In 1980, with the support of the local community, Berkeley Rep built the 400-seat Thrust Stage where its reputation steadily grew over the next two decades. It gained renown for an adventurous combination of work, presenting important new dramatic voices alongside refreshing adaptations of seldom-seen classics. In recognition of its place on the national stage, Berkeley Rep was honored with the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre in 1997. The company celebrated by unveiling a 600-seat proscenium stage in 2001, the state-of-the-art Roda Theatre. It also opened the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre, a permanent home for its long tradition of outreach and education programs. The addition of these two buildings transformed a single stage into a vital and versatile performing arts complex, the linchpin of a bustling downtown arts district which has helped revitalize Berkeley. The Theatre now welcomes an annual audience of 180,000, serves 20,000 students, and hosts dozens of community groups, thanks to 1,000 volunteers and more than 400 artists, artisans, and administrators.

For more information on American Idiot and the other shows in Berkeley Rep's 2009/10 Season, call (510) 647-2949 or toll-free at (888) 4-BRT-Tix - or just click berkeleyrep.org.

Photo credit Walter McBride

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