Students tread the boards in production of ‘American Idiot’

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From the time “Dookie,” Green Day’s major-label debut, dropped in 1994, the band was well on its way to becoming an influential voice for multiple generations. Songs such as “Basket Case” and “When I Come Around” spoke to Generation X, while, a decade later, the punk-rock opera “American Idiot” similarly affected coming-of-age millennials.

“It was a big part of shaping my youth and my early formative years,” Levi Meerovich, a rising freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University, said of the album. “Once a Green Day fan, always a Green Day fan, honestly.”

Meerovich, who plans to major in theater performance and education at VCU, assumes the role of Favorite Son in Little Butterfly Theatre Co.’s stage production of “American Idiot” this week in McLean. 

Levi Meerovich
Levi Meerovich

“He is America’s golden boy,” Meerovitch said, “and he sings a song early in the show basically almost seducing one of the main characters into the military. And his whole deal is that he constantly has women fawning over him. He’s sexy. He’s hot. He’s very active, [has] a very like sexual-like energy and he’s kind of like what every young man wants to be.

“And they see him and they say, ‘How can I be like you?’ and he says, essentially, ‘Join the military.’” 

To get into character, Meerovich will channel “highly sexualized pop stars” such as David Bowie, Billie Joe Armstrong and Gerard Way. Later in the show, however, the scenes turn to combat. 

“In that, I feel like he’s just a regular soldier,” Meerovich said. “He’s just trying to do his job. And so there’s really two different sides to this character that has been really interesting to explore.” 

Other VCU students are also participating in the production. Rising freshmen Abby Huston and Marcia Cunning and rising sophomore Kathy Oh are members of the ensemble. Like Meerovich, Huston has a deep connection with Green Day’s music. 

“‘American Idiot’ has a really rebellious quality to it,” Huston said. “I have a very clear memory of being driven home from a sleepover in third grade and being scolded by my best friend's dad for listening to Green Day. Needless to say, I've been wanting to do this production for a long time. That memory fits the attitude of this production for me because this company is built of kids who have been scolded by school administrators in an attempt to shield them from things that are a part of life.”   

Huston came to this project through its director, Amy E. Poe, who started Little Butterfly “for young adults and teenagers who were being denied permission to create art that they felt passionate about or relate to because of the necessity to keeps things family-friendly,” Huston said. 

Meerovich has appeared in Little Butterfly’s previous productions of “Spring Awakening” and “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.”

“I’ve mostly done plays but I love musicals, especially rock musicals,” Meerovich said. “I’ve done farces like ‘Rumors’ and fully committed to dramas like ‘1984’ and ‘Of Mice and Men.’ I like to stretch myself across the board, do a lot of different kinds of stuff. … When I heard that Little Butterfly was going to be putting it on, I was really excited, because it was a chance to really get involved with Green Day in a big way that I haven’t been able to before. So it was really exciting to me to hear that I was going to be able to be a part of it.” 

I plan to get involved in everything I can and keep working. I love theater. I love being onstage, I love being offstage, I love being in the audience.

Meerovich and Huston share more than just an affinity for good music. Both chose to attend VCU because it was the best fit for them; Huston loved the campus and art program while Meerovich felt warmth and acceptance when he visited to audition. Both also plan to be involved with the Department of Theatre in the School of the Arts in some capacity.

“I know as a freshman, I don’t have many expectations,” Meerovich said, “but I plan to get involved in everything I can and keep working. I love theater. I love being onstage, I love being offstage, I love being in the audience. And if there’s any way I can be a part of that at VCU, I plan to.” 

“I would love to be involved in the theater department at VCU in any way,” Huston echoed. “If not performing then just showing up and helping out where I can would hold me over; I need to keep theater in my life.” 

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