Green Day's 'American Idiot' Play: The Billboard Cover Story

Green Day

"Green Day fans will come, of course," she says. "As will 'Spring Awakening' fans and fans of [music supervisor/ arranger] Tom Kitt, who has his own following. If they can get affordable tickets, students will go see it, too. But beyond those crowds, I don't know who else will go."

Wollman says she doesn't know whether the show will ultimately be sustainable unless it manages to reach a wider audience. "Broadway tends to be an older crowd," she says. "There will be tension, because what Broadway thinks is edgy is actually not edgy at all from a rock perspective."

The larger economic conditions on Broadway appear to be promising, though. "Broadway really escaped the last recession," the Broadway League's St. Martin says. "Over the last 50 years, there is really no correlation between Broadway and the broader economic condition, unless you look at an event like 9/11. How well Broadway does is much more dependent on how good the shows are."


While Wollman says that Broadway remains a mostly older audience, she does concede that the times are changing. "Kids are more comfortable with musicals," she says. "Look at 'High School Musical' or 'Glee.' It's part of pop culture for them." St. Martin says that while Broadway hasn't made a focused effort to reach a younger crowd, the fact that it's more open to younger producers means more shows that will appeal to Generations X and Y.

The kids are a primary target for "Idiot," but so are their parents. On the night of April 1 the theater was full of families-Mom, Dad and two teenage kids, out for a night at the theater. Pittelman says the show has so far spent $500,000 on TV ads alone and will roll out a radio campaign soon, but it scored an earned media coup early on, performing on January's Grammy Awards telecast. Hulce adds that the show has mounted a large online campaign, with ads on a wide variety of theater sites and music sites. Tickets to the show are priced to appeal to a wide demographic, too: Student rush seats are $27, and regular tickets range from $30 to $127. MTV is also working with the band-the channel is giving away tickets to a performance and airing a half-hour special, called "Green Day Rocks Broadway," a behind-the-scenes look at the musical.

But a traditional TV, radio and online campaign might not be enough, says Janet Billig, an executive producer for "Rock of Ages."

"We did some audience research and found that almost half of our crowd had never been to a Broadway show before," she says. "So we knew there was no way we could stick with the traditional Broadway marketing plan. We have a great team with Broadway cred, much like 'American Idiot,' so we know we can draw the usual theater crowd that way. But we needed to go beyond that."

Billig says one key part of the "Rock of Ages" promotion was letting people hear the music associated with the show. "We can't just say, 'Come hear all your favorite '80s classics,' " she says. "They need to hear it blaring out of their computer. We do things like have the cast sing at sports games. We also know that women are the primary ticket buyers, so we work with mom blogs; we also make sure the poster appeals to kids."

All the savvy marketing in the world won't help if the show doesn't have a strong story, and John Gallagher Jr., who plays Johnny, says he's counting on the story's relatability to keep drawing crowds.

"It's a story about kids in a world where the TV is always on and they are struggling to find their own voice," he says. "Whether the play has a happy ending or not depends on your perspective. But in the end, Johnny goes through something a lot of people struggle with and comes out still standing."