Casey O’Farrell: “American Idiot”is “a heartfelt story, not a cookie-cutter musical.”


Don’t want to be an American idiot.

One nation controlled by the media.

Information age of hysteria.

It’s calling out to idiot America.

— “American Idiot”

by Green Day

Alienation, anger, angst. They have haunted youths for ages. As have insecurity, tormented love and the great looming question, “What should I do with my life?”

The punk-rock band Green Day described the soul-wrenching state of mind beautifully in its 2004 album/opera “American Idiot.”

So it makes sense that a Broadway musical wouldn’t be far behind.

“American Idiot” hit the Great White Way in 2010, snagged a couple of Tony awards and packed in audiences. Now it’s on the road, making a two-day stop in Tucson this weekend.

The musical tells the story of three friends faced with choices: to pursue their dreams or languish in the comfort of the suburbia they know so well.

Casey O’Farrell plays one of those friends, Will, and he knows of what he sings.

“Oh yeah, I identify with the (characters),” said O’Farrell, speaking from Eugene, Ore., where the play had a one-day run.

“When I was 18, I packed up everything and moved to New York.”

That search for purpose has ended well for O’Farrell. Now 29, he has been on the road with “American Idiot” for about 16 months. Before that, he was in a rock band in Los Angeles. He has a steady girlfriend with whom he speaks every day.

Yet he’s not so far removed that he doesn’t still empathize with the characters.

“Will is the unfortunate recipient of a bunch of experiences he wasn’t ready for,” says O’Farrell about his character.

When Will’s girlfriend gets pregnant, he stays with her rather than go away to the big city with his buddies.

“He stays at home and lives on the couch for the rest of the show; he doesn’t do his part as a father. He decides to handle it the wrong way. That’s common for so many people in their late teens and early 20s.”

It may not be surprising that the album “American Idiot” came with a “parental advisory.” There’s harsh language, allusions to drinking, drugging and smoking, and suggestions of violence.

You’ll find all those — and sex — in the rock opera.

That shouldn’t surprise anyone, said O’Farrell.

“If you don’t do any research and come and are offended, that’s on you,” he said. “You know you are going to a Green Day show and that there’s adult subject matter. We don’t shy away from it; it’s in your face.”

But, he adds, that’s not what it’s all about.

“It’s a heartfelt story, not a cookie-cutter musical,” he said.

“It deals with real issues, and there’s a lot of truth and heart in it. You come out of the show feeling something. That’s a huge reason I took the job.”

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at or 573-4128.