This month, Green Day’s awesomely angst-ridden album American Idiot jumps from your iPod to the stage at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, directed by Michael Mayer and choreographed by Steven Hoggett, from Scotland. The band’s record serves as the foundation for an eponymous musical about the bumpy journeys of working-class Americans.
Hoggett, who became a household name with last fall’s Black Watch, talked with DS about working on a larger musical and his distinctive moves.
DS: How have your eclectic background and theatrical training influenced you?
Steven Hoggett: I rarely have a set idea of what something needs to be. I go in with fresh ideas, and I don’t hold to one style. I do my homework via research, and then I make sure the movement is clear and tells the story.
DS: What was your concept for American Idiot?
SH: I worked with contrast—lackluster to explosive, gentle to rage—because the characters are disenfranchised, so there are tons of emotions. The band provides material to which I can see natural choreography. The audiences at Green Day concerts even have their own shapes and I’ve used that!
DS: What were the challenges and surprises?
SH: The show is music from start to finish, so it’s heavy with choreographic content. But the minute I make it look too choreographed, I’ve failed! I have to harness the Green Day energy but not turn it into a dance spectacular. I was thrilled to find that American actors do everything—they’re actors, singers and dancers. It’s amazing to work with people like that!
Photo by Phil Mucci