From Broadway to UNLV. With multiple stops in between.
That’s the path the musical “American Idiot” has followed — spending the past three weeks retooling for its latest national tour in the Judy Bayley Theatre at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
But before “American Idiot” hits the road to Portland, Ore., Las Vegans will have the chance to catch the Tony-winning portrait of alienated American youths, inspired by — and featuring songs from — Green Day’s 2004 album of the same name.
Performances benefiting UNLV’s Nevada Conservatory Theatre will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday.
It’s hardly the first time locals have seen “American Idiot.” The show played downtown’s Smith Center in June.
But it’s also not the first time “American Idiot” has visited UNLV, according to Brackley Frayer, NCT’s executive director, who heads UNLV’s theater department.
Before “American Idiot’s” Broadway debut, officials came to UNLV to rehearse flying sequences, which were staged by Las Vegas-based Flying by Foy. They returned when new cast members joined the show.
Last spring, however, show officials asked if they could prepare a downsized “American Idiot” at UNLV before it began touring smaller venues.
“It’s a great deal” for the production, Frayer says, noting that the show gets the theater “rent-free — and all our student labor.”
More important, he adds, it’s a great deal for about 30 design tech students working alongside Broadway professionals overseeing the show’s audio, video and lighting components — including Tony-winning lighting designer Kevin Adams and Tony-winning set designer Christine Jones.
The collaboration represents a “fairly large” coup for UNLV, Frayer says, especially because students working on the show “are getting resume credits” — and access to working professionals who may hire them for future jobs.
The show’s technical staff spent the first half of the UNLV stay re-configuring the show’s set — along with lighting, audio and video computer programs — to suit theaters that seat about 500 people. (The previous tour played larger houses such as The Smith Center’s Reynolds Hall, which seats more than 2,000.)
Large packing crates litter the Judy Bayley lobby, having been emptied of computer monitors, sound gear and other technical equipment needed for the show. (Seven sea containers carried the equipment from the “American Idiot” tour’s previous stops — in South Korea.)
And cast members, after two weeks of rehearsal in New York, hit the Judy Bayley stage Halloween night, with only a piano providing pounding accompaniment as they rock through the number “Holiday.”
Director Michael Mayer isn’t in Las Vegas, so associate director Johanna McKeon supervises the rehearsal.
A scaffold transforms into a New York City-bound bus as disillusioned suburban teens Johnny (Jared Nepute) and Tunny (Dan Tracy), joined by Andrew Humann and fellow ensemble members, sing “This is the dawning of the rest of our lives” while multiple video monitors flash images of their post-Sept. 11 world.
Once the number concludes, it’s time to reset and repeat.
“Look out, there’s a bus behind you, sweet pea,” McKeon advises a cast member who’s too close to the scaffolding as it rolls back to its starting point. A moment later, she addresses production stage manager Cory Boulieris about a prop problem — before the piano sets the beat for another “Holiday” run-through.
Ironically, this “American Idiot” retooling will include the elimination of the very element — the flying sequence — that originally brought the production to UNLV.
“They can do without it,” says Frayer, noting how the scaled-down plays differently in a more intimate space. “Even if people have seen it,” he adds, “it will be a different experience.”
Contact reporter Carol Cling at email@example.com or 702-383-0272.