By MYRON LOVE
“American Idiot”, Kayla Gordon’s Winnipeg Studio Theatre’s upcoming new production - Feb 23 - March 5 at the Tom Hendry Warehouse Theatre – marks the professional stage debut for 19-year-old Josh Bellan, one of the younger members of our community. Fellow Jewish cast member Elliott Lazar, on the other hand, in his early 20s, is already a veteran both onstage and behind the scene.
The Tony and Grammy Award-winning “American Idiot” is based on the music of 1990s punk rock group Green Day and their concept album, also titled “American Idiot”. The play, which tells the story of three boyhood friends, each searching for meaning in a post 9/11 world, incorporates the lyrics of Green Day lead singer (and guitarist) Billie Joe Armstrong who also did the book for the musical with Michael Mayer.
Bellan and Lazar are part of an ensemble of 18 actors playing different roles in the production “I’m over the moon to be working on this show, having grown up with Green Day’s music,” says Lazar. “Of course, at the time the music spoke to my teenage experience - but listening back to it as a young adult, I identify far more with the political themes explored in the album (and the show). The sense of confusion, panic and helplessness that pervaded the American mindset immediately following 9/11 was not unlike the current unrest in the wake of last November’s election, which is why I believe the show will really resonate with audiences. People are scared and frustrated, and our neighbor to the south is divided. Everyone’s looking for a change - just like the protagonists in American Idiot.”
Lazar’s theatrical credits include Rainbow Stage, MTYP, Winnipeg Jewish Theatre, Dry Cold Productions, Manitoba Opera, the Winnipeg Fringe Festival and Master Playwright Festival. He has played Leo Frank in Parade (a musical about the trial and eventual lynching of an honest Jew in Atlanta in the early 20th Century), Centipede in James and the Giant Peach, and Flounder in the Canadian Premiere of The Little Mermaid.
Last spring he graduated from the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Music where he received the Gold Medal for Performance Students. In addition to his theatrical work, he has been teaching voice and piano privately.
Bellan is currently enrolled in the Faculty of Music in Voice. He is a graduate of Grant Park High School (which has a well known musical theatre program) and been part of the Winnipeg Studio Theatre education program. He is also looking forward to his next professional role in a limited engagement for “South Pacific” which Rainbow Stage is mounting in April.
Incidentally, both Bellan and Lazar did very well in the annual Winnipeg Music Festival last winter. Lazar competed in six different categories, finishing first or second in each category. Bellan won the Alma Wynne Memorial Trophy and the Mary Campbell Memorial Bursary, was co-winner of the Musical Theatre category, runner-up for the Rainbow Stage Trophy and was recommended for provincial competitions in the vocal intermediate and Musical Theatre categories. Both young men would seem to have a promising future in musical theatre.
For information about tickets, click onto wwwwinnipegstudiotheatre.com or phone the MTC box office at 204- 956-1340.