American Idiot's Olivia Puckett on the show, the music, the politics
Olivia Puckett is getting ready to hit the stage and bring "American Idiot," the rock opera spectacle based on the classic Green Day album of the same name, to life at Los Angeles's Hollywood Pantages Theater on May 13.
Puckett plays the role of Whatsername, the love interest of lead character Johnny. They form part of a group of young people caught in the limbo of a modern America mired in uncertainty, with some returning scarred from fighting in wars abroad.
For Puckett, "American Idiot" is the first major role in the beginning of a promising career. Raised in a melodic home by parents with a love for the arts, it was only natural for Puckett to gravitate towards the world of theater.
"When I got to high school I decided I wanted to make this my career," said Puckett over the phone from New York City.
After obtaining a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Theater Performance from Wagner College, it was a short span of time before Puckett landed a role in "American Idiot."
"I got an audition for the show in September. I went in and two days later got a call that I got it," she said.
For Puckett, the character of Whatsername represents a unique female role because while she's a heroine, she is not the stereotypical damsel in distress waiting for her knight in shining armor.
"She's a really strong and independent woman who is trying to figure out her own self, but she has a better grasp on everything as far as life goes than most of the boys," she said.
"I'm very into girl power," she added. "It's important for young girls who are maybe starting to come to theater and are wanting to do it, that they don't have to play these 'woe is me' characters all the time."
The production is directed by Michael Mayer, who won a Tony award-winner for "Spring Awakening."
One of the aspects of "American Idiot" that cannot be overlooked is its political nature. The platinum-selling, Grammy-winning Green Day album the musical is based on was released at the height of the Iraq War and remains a timeless expression of the George W. Bush era.
The musical adaptation presents a world where young people are saturated by both the media and the political uncertainty of the times. Puckett believes the strength of the material is how it fits well with the moods and feelings of any time and place.
"This show and the album were written during that whole time but it connects to every generation. There has never been a perfect American political world, so it connects to every generation including future ones," she said. "I think young people should start thinking for ourselves. Take your own path and stay educated about what's going on abroad and in our own country."
One number from the production that has grown close to Puckett's heart is "21 Guns."
"It's the climax of the show when Johnny is just rock bottom and I want to help him and he doesn't want it. It's such a meaningful song, the arrangement by Tom Kitt is just beautiful. You can feel something."
The show has already been playing to sold out audiences across the country since October.
"We've got it working like a well-oiled machine. It will be fun to end the show with a bang in L.A.," she said.
Puckett hopes audiences will attend "American Idiot" to experience something beyond the usual pastimes of watching something on a screen.
"Do you want to see a movie or do want to see this show? People should come see the show. They will leave with a whole different idea of Punk rock. Have fun, lose yourself for an hour and a half." she said.
"American Idiot" opens at the Hollywood Pantages Theater on May 13 and will run through May 18.