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From Rage (and Love) to Stage: Musical Reinforcement of Narrative Themes in the Stage Musical American Idiot

American Idiot, the Broadway musical by the band Green Day and theater veteran Michael Mayer, embodies the experience of a generation of Americans. The story revolves around youths coming of age during the presidency of George W. Bush, living through the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, two wars, ever increasing media and technology saturation, and a breakdown of the suburban ideal. As the primary theme and the driving force in the dramatic action of American Idiot, the characters’ internal struggle between rage and love is reinforced through several devices present in the music. There are four notable ones. First, allusion to a variety of rock styles and songs highlight themes of disillusionment, alienation, and false hope. Second, the use of recurring musical material draws connections in the storyline, promotes continuity, and creates foreshadowing. Third, the modification of songs from their original versions reinforce dramatic climaxes, and fourth, the use of specific styles to represent characters adds to their depth and significance. In order to provide context for the musical, this thesis will examine some of its antecedents and influences. The three most important of these are the history of Green Day and its members, the position of American Idiot in the rock opera genre, and the transformation of the original 2004 album into the 2010 Broadway musical. Finally, an examination of youth and suburbia in America at the turn of the twenty-first century will demonstrate the connection to themes expressed in the narrative of American Idiot.
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