Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong has been working on songs for a musical coming to the stage in Los Angeles and New York City developed from the work of a different writer – William Shakespeare. The resulting show, These Paper Bullets!, which has been dubbed a “modish ripoff” of Much Ado About Nothing will be performed in Los Angeles for 6 weeks, starting Sept. 8, 2015, before moving off-Broadway to the Atlantic Theater in November as part of its 30th anniversary season.
These Paper Bullets! will open the 2015-2016 season at the Geffen Playhouse’s Gil Cates Theater in the Westwood area of Los Angeles. The show book was written by Rolin Jones, a Pulitzer Prize finalist and Emmy-nominated writer (Friday Night Lights, Boardwalk Empire). The songs are by Green Day front man Armstrong and the show will be directed by Jackson Gay.
These Paper Bullets! had a try-out run in 2014 at the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, Conn, where it received great reviews. It is not known yet if the Yale version will be changed a lot before hitting Los Angeles and off-Broadway. (American Idiot debuted at Berkeley Rep in 2009 before moving to Broadway. That trajectory and re-staging is the topic of the documentary Broadway Idiot.)
At Yale, it was clear that the plot differed greatly from Shakespeare’s rom-com. In fact, it seemed to merge two of England’s most famous entertainment exports – the Bard and the Beatles. These Paper Bullets! follows four rock stars from Liverpool in a group called the Quartos (trivia note: the Quarry Men were a group John Lennon formed that evolved into the Beatles). Their fans worship the four lads, but have an angry former drummer bent on destroying them. The group is in London for a week to cut an album and, hopefully, meet the women of their dreams.
Much Ado About Nothing was also about a foursome; in this case, they are two young couples. One couple is scheduled to be wed soon and they conspire to nudge the other bickering couple, which features a confirmed bachelor, toward the altar. Accusations of infidelity, plots of revenge, some subplots and witty dialog ensue before the two couples (plot spoiler) eventually marry.
Armstrong make be best known for his punk-edged rockers with Green Day, including Basket Case, Good Riddance (Time of Your Life), Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Wake Me Up When September Ends, and others over more than two decades. As seen in Broadway Idiot, however, the future rock star grew up singing classic Broadway show tunes in nursing homes long before become a spiky-haired rocker. In concert, he has thrown in an old-school crooner numbers, such as some Frank Sinatra in Las Vegas a few years back, between backbeat based songs.
After getting a taste of working on Broadway musicals with his 2010 staging of his own songs in American Idiot, Armstrong told many interviewers, “I think I’d be interested in the future of really getting into writing specifically for a show,” or penning an original musical. The result is These Paper Bullets!, the new Billie Joe Armstrong musical coming this fall as a co-production between the Geffen Playhouse in LA and the Atlantic Theater Company in NYC.
By Dyanne Weiss