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Alex Nee On ... American Idiot

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San Francisco born performer Alex Nee is getting ready for his first visit to Manchester in the hit show American Idiot - the Green Day musical which arrives at the Palace Theatre next month. Alex plays the lead in this highly acclaimed piece, having previously starred in the likes of Rent, Tommy and Spring Awakening in the U.S.

1991 in San Francisco, CA

Where do you live now?
I grew up living in the Bay Area, specifically Palo Alto, CA. This is actually only about 45 minutes from where Green Day grew up and started performing. I went to school at Northwestern University just outside of Chicago, IL. Now I’m on tour, and I don’t have keys to any sort of home (other than various hotel rooms).

What made you want to be a performer?
I was drawn to the stage early in life. I had a very very small role as a mute spear-bearer in my 3rd grade play. I guess I loved the experience, because the next year I was cast in a regional production of Christopher Durang’s Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You. My mom always said that if I wasn’t actually in this play, there was no way she’d let me see it. It was dark, and twisted, and hilarious. As a 9 year old, I got to be around these amazingly creative adults and explore themes of sex, drugs, and the darker sides of life. This lit a fire under me, and from then on I’ve always felt the need to explore the full spectrum of human experience on stage.

What has been your career highlight so far?
I have to say that this tour is by far my career highlight. I don’t think the magnitude of this opportunity has fully set in yet. I can’t imagine what it’s going to feel like to perform this show for thousands of people every night all over the UK. There’s a line in the show that says, “This is the dawning of the rest of our lives”. I know it’s a little cheesy, but right now that’s how I feel about doing this show.

Who is your favourite songwriter?
This is a tough question, because I listen to a ton of music and I don’t hold on to favorites for too long. Currently my favorite songwriter is Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. I think he’s a genius. Pretty sure I’ve listened to his new album over 200 times straight through.

What is the first thing you saw on stage that made an impact on you?
My parents took me to the Jerry Garcia memorial concert in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco when I was about 5 years old. Santana and Joe Satriani played, a million white carnations dropped from the sky. While I don’t fully remember it, I think experiencing 25,000 people being united by legendary music in the beautiful outdoors was pretty formative to my love for music and performance.

What's the best advice you have ever received?
My acting teacher, Dan Cantor, often said that the person you are is a thousand times more interesting the actor you could ever hope to be. I always take this to mean that you have to bring yourself to the role and reveal every aspect of yourself – the good and the bad. I also took this as permission and encouragement to focus on living my life and enriching myself as important. I think it’s so important to have diverse and dynamic experiences. So while I definitely focus on learning my craft as an actor, I also explore life through as many other lenses as possible.

Why did you want to get involved with American Idiot?
I saw American Idiot on Broadway with the original cast during my freshman year of college. I was so inspired by the energy, passion, and complexity of the show. It opened me up a new kind of storytelling; one that vibrates at a deeper more visceral level than other shows I had seen. I immediately knew that I needed to be a part of this new kind of theatre.

Summarise the appeal of the show in five words.

Rage, love, everything in between.

Here in the UK - Jukebox shows get a fair bit of criticism. What sets American Idiot apart from these types of shows?
I don’t see American Idiot as a jukebox musical in any way. Jukebox musicals often take hit songs, which were never originally intended to be strung together, and construct a loose plot around them. Green Day wrote the album "American Idiot" with a story in mind. They were using music and lyrics to tell a story that they felt needed to be shared. Then Michael Mayer worked with Billie Joe to flush out this story even more for the stage. The story is integral to the music, and vice versa; this is a show that fully embraces music, lyrics, and movement as its vocabulary over traditional storytelling.

What are you looking forward the most about performing in the UK?

The audiences. People seem really excited about the show finally coming to the UK. Green Day, as a band, has always had a huge UK following, and the show has been hugely successful in the US, so I think it’s about time that it comes to the UK. I also think it will be extremely interesting and informative to have a specifically UK audience perspective on what has so far been an American show. I can only see this diversity enriching the show, and breathing new life and energy into it. Also, the pubs. I want to taste a lot of scotch.

Alex Nee was speaking to Glenn Meads

American Idiot comes to Manchester's Palace Theatre from 12 - 24 November.


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