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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 1, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 22
Van Hughes: a true American 'idiot'
Arts & Entertainment
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Van Hughes: a true American 'idiot'

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

AMERICAN IDIOT
PARAMOUNT THEATRE
June 5-10


Van Hughes doesn't mind being called an 'American idiot.' He first became one when performing in the hit Broadway musical of the same name, featuring the music of Green Day. Now he is traveling with the show's first national touring company and the title goes out before him. SGN caught up with this rebellious soul and got a moment to chat.

Eric Andrews-Katz: Who were the performers that influenced you the most?

Van Hughes: I grew up with my grandparents, so I listened to a lot of '50s rock'n'roll singers: Elvis, Buddy Holly, and the Beatles. In the acting world, I would have to say Sean Penn and Tom Hanks were the ones who made me decide that's what I wanted to do.

Andrews-Katz: Do you count yourself as more of an actor or a concert singer?

Hughes: I guess I would say that I'm just an entertainer. I like to do a lot of different things. I even like to paint, so I guess I just like bringing art to life in different ways.

Andrews-Katz: How familiar were you with Green Day before auditioning for American Idiot?

Hughes: I loved Green Day when I was a kid - loved them! Their first four albums I knew by heart. I was impersonating them in the mirror and always liked Billie Joe [Armstrong]. Fast-forward my life 15 years and I'm performing with him on stage. Billie Joe performed with us when I did the show on Broadway. It was like coming full circle, sort of like Saturn Returns.

Andrews-Katz: How do you think Green Day has influenced the world of music?

Hughes: I don't know. I guess they are bringing a politically charged message to the pop world. They are radio friendly, so they get heard and their songs are actually saying something about our present state of America. That's something, especially since the American Idiot album was released [almost] 10 years ago.

Andrews-Katz: How do you think American Idiot has influenced the world of theater?

Hughes: It's completely different as far as musicals go. There is none other like it. First of all, we are singing directly to the audience most of the time, not to each other. Unlike Rent - it's more like Hair in that way. The way we the stage and lighting and TVs, and the way the music doesn't really stop, it's something that nobody has ever seen. It's more pushing the way a story can be told on stage.

Andrews-Katz: What makes American Idiot different from other 'jukebox' musicals?

Hughes: It's not a jukebox musical because it's not a collection of unrelated songs. American Idiot was originally written as an opera [like the Who's Tommy] and it was a [musical] storyline that was intended to be seen by an audience. Unlike Mamma Mia, which is a collection of songs that have a storyline written around it, the songs were written to be staged.

Andrews-Katz: How does the music of Green Day differ from the music in the musical?

Hughes: The music is pretty much the same music - almost exactly, in fact. It just depends on who is singing the song on stage, whether it's a guy or a girl.

Andrews-Katz: Regardless of gender, what roles would you like to play?

Hughes: I would say Dot in Sunday in the Park with George. It's really a cool female part. Or George. I love that show and wouldn't mind playing either lead.

American Idiot opened on Broadway at the St. James Theater on April 20, 2010. It was nominated for three Drama Desk Awards and three Tony Awards including Best Musical of 2010. It won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Musical, and two Tonys, for Best Scenic Design and Best Lighting. Information and tickets are available at www.stgpresents.org.

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