Is American Idiot Broadway’s Idiot?

The idea of changing the leads of a Broadway show as time goes on is no new concept. This happens for almost every show as their time on Broadway continues; contracts expire, stars move to new productions and the show goes on like it should. While many shows can do this and survive, once in a while a show pulls a move that completely screws them over. The latest victim to this flaw is Broadway’s American Idiot.

American Idiot opened on Broadway in 2010 with almost everything going for it. The musical, conceived from the same album name, featured music from the hit rock band Green Day with direction by Michael Mayer. Also, with names attached to the production such as John Gallagher Jr. and Ton Vincent, the production hit Broadway with a slap and taste of the new sound of Broadway. The production was nominated for 3 Tony Awards including Best Musical. It won the Tony Award for Best Scenic Design and Best Lighting Design both for a musical.

The production faced its first challenge when it was announced Tony Vincent, who originated the role of St. Jimmy, would be departing the production. The producers of the show said “no problem” to that and threw Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong into the role. The move not only brought a totally new style to the show, considering Armstrong wrote the music and conceived the musical with Mayer, but also sent ticket sales through the roof as Green Day fans flocked to the St. James Theatre. The move was also rightly placed considering that the winter season is often the slowest months for many Broadway productions.

However, on February 27th, American Idiot was hit 3 times when John Gallagher Jr., Michael Esper and Billie Joe Armstrong all departed the production. 3 Huge names to be replaced by 3 other names. However many, including myself, agreed the names were not big enough. Van Hughes, Justin Guarini and Davey Havok stepped into various roles.

Today though, beliefs became facts as American Idiot announced their first weekly gross report since the newcomers entered the production.

American Idiot lost about $1 million dollars in ticket sales in the first week alone.

The New York Times Arts Section reported a drop taking place in ticket sales from $1.3 million dollars a week, average before the replacements, to this week’s total which was only $395,275. The report also stated the show played to only a half way filled house.  There is no current strategy set either for bigger names. While Joshua Henry returns to the production March 15th, Davey Havok (who plays St. Jimmy) is only set to play a 2 week engagement. All these signs are pointing in one direction..

Luner on Theatre is more then willing to say that if American Idiot does not provide a bigger name to its production soon enough, the production will be posting a closing notice. A big name in the role of St. Jimmy is key and most likely where they will be able to pull the most money from. A suitable replacement would be Adam Lambert. Luner on Theatre did a previous article on this topic which you can view here.

*Something worth noting is the fact that this past week, every single Broadway production reported a steep decline in gross profit. Only 3 shows (Wicked, Spiderman and Lion King) reported making over $1 million dollars. However, American Idiot had the largest decline out of all shows.

It will be most interesting to see how American Idiot digs themselves out of this hole they have really created. Another idea is just simply replacing leads over and over again with star studded or rock star apperances. I mean, hey, its working for Chicago right? American Idiot will continue to play at The St. James Theatre. For more information, please check out American Idiot’s Official Website

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