A year ago, actor Alex Nee was a student at Northwestern who had tickets to see the Chicago premiere of the Broadway musical tribute to the music of the band Green Day.
One year later, the national Broadway tour of "American Idiot," that same Broadway show, is back in Chicago again and this time, Nee, is now in the starring lead role of Johnny.
"When I caught the Chicago run of 'American Idiot' last February, I was already talking with producers about joining the cast, which is one of the reasons I wanted to check out the production while it was in town," said Nee, talking by telephone Wednesday from Lansing, Mich. while on the tour. The show opens for one week in Chicago Tuesday through April 21 at Cadillac Palace Theatre.
"I'm actually still a senior at Northwestern, but on leave, and I'll graduate and participate in the ceremony in June."
"American Idiot," featuring the music from the Green Day album of the same name, is a 2010 Tony Award-nominated Best Musical and 2010 Grammy Award winner for Best Musical Show Album, with the lyrics of the band's lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong. The book is by Armstrong and Michael Mayer, who also does the direction and is a Tony Award-winner for his alternative rock, youth movement musical "Spring Awakening."
In addition to Nee as Johnny, this tour features a cast different from last season's Chicago visit, and also stars Trent Saunders as St. Jimmy, Casey O'Farrell as Will, Thomas Hettrick as Tunny, Alyssa DiPalma as Whatsername, Jenna Rubaii as The Extraordinary Girl and Kennedy Caughell as Heather.
"I am thrilled that we get to continue sharing 'American Idiot' with audiences across North America,"said director Michael Mayer.
"The creative team and I couldn't be happier with the stellar group of actors we've assembled. All of them are talented new additions to the 'American Idiot' family."
Nee and his castmates just finished touring the production in London in the fall before returning for a new leg of U.S. city dates.
"American Idiot" is the story of three boyhood friends, each searching for meaning in a post 9-11 world. The original Broadway run in New York was at the St. James Theatre from March 2010 to April 2011.
"Since its inception, audiences have been surprised by the emotional journey the show takes them on, told almost exclusively through Green Day's songs, including many they are already familiar with and love,”"said producer Tom Hulce.
"This is such a potent time for our country and the search of our characters for what to believe in is gorgeously celebrated through Billie Joe and Green Day’s wonderfully lush score."
The musical features the hits "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," "21 Guns," "Wake Me Up When September Ends," "Holiday" and the blockbuster title track "American Idiot" from Green Day's 2004 Grammy Award-winning, multi-platinum album.
Also included in the score are several songs from Green Day's 2009 release "21st Century Breakdown," and an unreleased love song, "When It's Time."
Nee, who is originally from Northern California's Bay area, said he first began listening to Green Day's music when he was 10-years-old.
"I wasn't a diehard fan, but I liked the music and those were some of the first songs I can remember listening to from my school years from fifth grade to ninth grade," he said.
"But as these same songs are folded in for this Broadway story, the words and sounds are revitalized and suddenly, all of the words to the lyrics some more clear than ever before."
Following the remaining U.S. city tour dates, Nee said the production will head to Japan to reach new audiences around the globe.