American Idiot’ retools at UNLV

Jared Young, center, performs with other cast members during “American Idiot” at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts Tuesday, June 11, 2013. American Idiot, featuring music by Green Day, tells the story of three lifelong friends forced to choose between their dreams and the safety of suburbia.
Photo: Steve Marcus
Jacob Coakley

The lobby of the Judy Bayley auditorium on the UNLV campus is overflowing with road cases shipped in from Seoul. They push into all corners of the theater and even spill out into portable storage containers that Brackley Frayer, head of UNLV’s theater program and executive director of the Nevada Conservatory Theatre, brought in to handle the excess.

The American Idiot production team might be using its time at UNLV to shrink the show into a smaller stage footprint so it can tour more theaters, but don’t tell that to the designers, who are using the retooling opportunity to jam even more intensity into what is already one of the most in-your-face musicals ever to hit Broadway.

‘American Idiot’

“We reduced some of the overhead rigging,” says Rhys Williams, technical supervisor on American Idiot, explaining that the show’s flying sequence has been taken out. But rigging’s loss is lighting’s gain, as suddenly Kevin Adams, who won a Tony for his lighting on Idiot, now has even more space to add lighting gear, and he’s using the show’s two-week UNLV encampment to take full advantage of it. “Every scene is being looked at and improved,” says Williams, mentioning that the projection, costumes, choreography and a host of other elements are being revisited and upgraded—which has translated into a great opportunity for Frayer and the UNLV students.

“Students get the experience, networking and résumé-building effects,” Frayer says. “They have 15 crew people here, and the various heads of departments—lighting, scenic, audio, video—just seeing the immense amount of equipment [and work that goes into a show], that’s what the students need to see.”

Students have been on the front lines of the changeover, fixing and prepping the old gear to go back out on the road and making sure it plays nicely with the new gear.

“They’ve been working from 7 in the morning to 7 or 8 at night,” Frayer says. “For them it’s huge, and it’s huge for us, too.” In exchange for use of the theater, the producers are donating two benefit performances this weekend at Judy Bayley, all proceeds going to support the Nevada Conservatory Theatre. “It’s really a win-win situation,” Frayer says, “and the roller coaster is still going.” He reaches for his ringing cell phone, already heading back into the theater for more work.

American Idiot November 8, 7:30 p.m.; November 9, 2 p.m.; $25-$50. UNLV’s Judy Bayley Theatre, 895-2787.

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