Being an “American Idiot”

Get transported to a real-life rock concert.

The third national tour of the Tony and Grammy-award winning production of “American Idiot,” playing at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale through April 6, follows three characters, Johnny, Tunny, and Will, as they make their way to New York City to figure out their lives.

The show is an adaption of rock band Green Day’s Grammy-winning 2004 album, also called “American Idiot”, which came to Broadway in April 2010. Songs in the show include “Wake me up when September Ends”, “21 Guns” and “Holiday.”

Hailing from St. Louis, Miss. and currently residing in New York when he’s not on the road, Jared Nepute stars as Johnny in the production, his first national tour, which he said has been amazing.

“It’s been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done, as well as one of the most rewarding, just because I’ve learned so much just by doing this show over and over and over again,” said Nepute. “You learn how to be consistent. You also grow as a performer, as an actor, as a singer, because you’re doing your craft over and over again, you’re trying to perfect it and my goal every show is to learn something new and to get better.”

Nepute started performing in talent shows and plays as a child, and eventually got involved in musical theatre. When he was in high school, he realized he wanted to make a career of it. After his junior year, he attended New York University’s six-week summer program and was accepted into the university, where he received a bachelor’s degree.

His character in “Idiot” is trying to figure out who he is and what he’s meant to do.

“He decides that this life is not one that he wants, so he has this great idea to move to New York City to try to find himself and find his purpose and almost actually start a revolution,” said Nepute.

Nepute first auditioned in New York last May, and over the course of two to three months, he had around seven call-backs before being cast for the role.

Although he hasn’t met Green Day vocalist Billie Joe Armstrong, Nepute met Armstrong’s wife and family at Portland’s opening night. Nepute was a fan of Green Day, even before being cast.

“I’ve been a fan of theirs since I was in grade school when their first album “Dookie” came out; I thought that album was so cool. ‘American Idiot’ came out in 2004 and I really liked the music of it, but I didn’t necessarily connect with it from a political standpoint just because I was 15 years old and politics was one of the last things on my mind at that time” said Nepute.

He started playing piano when he was five-years-old, playing classical music before progressing to pop and jazz. Besides singing onstage, Nepute also plays guitar, which he learned how to play just a few years ago.

Nepute said, “After I graduated from college, I decided I’d always wanted to learn guitar, but I finally had the free time to do it so I went on YouTube and looked up tutorials on how to get started and taught myself how to play guitar…thankfully I did, it kind of led to this job.”

Transitioning into a rocker, complete with black eyeliner, is something Nepute finds the polar opposite of his real-life persona.

“My normal disposition is a little more reserved and low-key and I like to take it easy a lot,” said Nepute. “Getting amped to play Johnny is a lot of fun, but you kind of draw from different experience. I put myself in the mindset of having 100,000 screaming fans just adoring you and hanging on to your every word.”

Nepute’s favorite song to perform in the show is “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.”

“That’s the first time that my character Johnny really feels like he’s found his place and discovers his voice and it’s a great moment for me because it’s just me and the audience and the set is like a backdrop of New York City. It’s a really cool moment for me to be able to take a breath and look out into the audience and feel at home.”

The cast recently completed their one hundredth performance of the tour.

“I never thought I’d be able to do this, to actually do a show so many times over and over and over again. We do eight performances a week, but it’s such a cool accomplishment to be able to do it so much”, said Nepute.

Nepute said the key is the performance feeling new, such as changing the emphasis on certain lines in the show to keep it fresh and not letting the character or the scenes become “static.”

“I like to explore new things every night and change it up. I’m sure its little things in the audience that they would never know, but for me it feels differently.”

Before he takes the stage, Nepute prepares by putting his head in a steamer for twelve minutes, called “steam time”, to get the humidity to his voice and recite some lines, followed by vocal warm-ups and stretching.

Preparing each night to give an energetic performance is a difficult task, mentally and physically.

“It’s difficult for sure, but what’s nice is that being on stage, everybody’s working just as hard, so we always try to outwork each other. It’s a good rivalry of going as hard and being as energetic as we can, and we have the audience which is great”, said Nepute. “When they respond, as they always do with such appreciation and energy of their own, we feed off of that.”

Nepute said this musical is unlike any other.

“It’s such a different experience than your typical book musical or classical musical theatre piece. It’s it’s own thing and it has such a huge heart and we’re all so proud to portray that and really get our message across, and you’ll see a lot of blood, sweat, and tears up on that stage and it’s all coming straight from the heart, it’s not phoned-in, ever.”

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