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Phil Jamieson is bringing Green Day’s American Idiot to life

Coming from a rock ‘n’ roll background where I embrace mistakes is so different because they definitely aren’t embraced in theatre, it was a steep learning curve.”

For nearly a decade, the punk rock fans and musical theatre fanatics of Melbourne have sat idly by while Green Day’s electrifying, award-winning rock opera American Idiot has wowed audiences around the world – but our wait is almost over. The high-energy broadway phenomenon is set to kick off its debut national tour in the New Year.

Still basking in the warm glow of critical and commercial success after its Australian premiere in Brisbane earlier this year, one of the lead players in the production, Grinspoon frontman Phil Jamieson, called in to chat about reprising his role, learning to embrace his fears, and how musical theatre is in his blood.

“I first received an email in January this year offering me the role of St Jimmy and I just said ‘Hell yes’ not knowing much about the project at all,” he says.

This two-time Tony award-winning musical features every song from Green Day’s career-defining album American Idiot, as well as several hits from their follow-up release 21st Century Breakdown. It tells the story of three disillusioned friends searching for meaning in a world they don’t understand. Through heartache and self-discovery, they soon find revelation.

“It dawned on me when I got to the first day of rehearsals exactly what I’d said yes to and it became terrifying and incredibly challenging,” Jamieson says. “I remember sitting in with the musical director and I was thinking ‘I can’t do this,’ I was scared.

“Don’t get me wrong, I was really honoured and flattered to even be considered in the pantheon of the other great musical theatre actors in this country, but I was really terrified because you’re surrounded by so many moving parts in theatre. Coming from a rock ‘n’ roll background where I embrace mistakes is so different because they definitely aren’t embraced in theatre, it was a steep learning curve for me,” Jamieson says.

“I guess the reason it was so daunting is that there were a lot of young people in this cast and this was their first big break, and I don’t want to be that guy that fucks it up,” he laughs. “In musical theatre it’s all about hitting your cue and I guess in the Grinspoon world the cues follow me.”

As an accomplished singer-songwriter and musician, Jamieson has been the heart and soul of one of the country’s finest rock acts for 20 years, so it might surprise you to know this isn't the first time Jamieson has tread the boards of musical theatre.

“Years ago I was Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, and I’ve got three younger sisters who are all into theatre, they’re all in the performing arts,” he says.

“One time I went and saw my whole family in The Sound of Music. My dad was The Captain and my mum was Maria. So I guess the Jamieson’s, in our little town on the North Coast of New South Wales, we were theatre people – although I never thought that this would land in my lap.”

Joining Jamieson in the shared role of St Jimmy are two of Australia’s much-loved frontwomen – multi ARIA-award winning singer-songwriter and guitarist Sarah McLeod and nationally-treasured singer-songwriter and guitarist Adalita from Magic Dirt.  

“For the QPAC production in Queensland we were very much on a shoe-string budget. We were covering each other’s lines and doing quick changes. So this time around it’s going to be bigger, better, brighter, and louder,” Jamieson says.

“There’s some incredible stuff bubbling under the surface, so that’s going to add a whole different dimension to this show, and although at first I was terrified I was also incredibly relieved that I got asked to do it again. I can’t wait to bring it to Melbourne in February.”

Green Day’s American Idiot The Musical will take over Comedy Theatre from Friday February 23 until Sunday March 11.