The album was recently given new life as Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening) collaborated with the band to bring that story to life at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Relying on the entirety of the album, several songs from the band’s follow-up album 21st Century Breakdown, and some B-sides, they were able to dazzle the audience with a retelling of Jesus of Suburbia’s journey. Jesus of Suburbia was not the only character from the album to appear on stage; his tragic lost love ("Whatsername") and his own Id ("St. Jimmy"). There are also several new characters, including Will and Tunny, who each go on journeys of their own that mirror Jesus of Suburbia’s.
If there is one major criticism of the musical, it is that it consists of very little dialogue. It is almost exclusively made up of songs, with some narrated letters home for exposition. Because of this, the story is almost exclusively told through visuals, and a lot is left up to the imagination. This was not a problem for me; however, most American audiences want to be explicitly told everything, and this could be a hindrance to some people’s enjoyment of the show.
As for the technical aspects of the show, everything was top-notch. The onstage band (in case you are wondering, Green Day did not in fact perform their songs for the musical) and choreography were superbly exciting and non-stop. The stunts and wirework were absolutely extraordinary. The set design was an incredible bombardment of images consisting of a plethora of televisions that were broadcasting images, newspaper clippings plastered on the walls and scaffolding, and even a car suspended from above.
But, honestly, what amazed me most was how it brought new life into my already favorite album. I felt like it was a much deeper iteration of the songs that already meant so much to me. Actually watching Jesus of Suburbia’s journey, as well as Will's and Tunny’s, made the story so much more poignant. As the trio are finally able to redeem themselves, they do not escape their respective paths unmarred. The bittersweet ending that comes from the scars, both physical and emotional, due to their past choices is punctuated by the triumphant “Homecoming” followed by the tragic epilogue that is “Whatsername.”
As the show enters its final week, there is much uncertainty about its future; however, a casting notice has just been posted with hopes of the show making its way to Broadway.