Rock opera 'American Idiot' to play Gammage

Former Sun Devil, rising Broadway star to perform

A question professional actors and musicians often get asked is, how did you get your first break? Often, that first experience of success in the entertainment industry is preceded by great sacrifice and years of painstaking progress and disappointing setbacks in the quest to "make it."

However, Krystina Alabado was one of the lucky ones.

A former Sun Devil, Alabado had spent one semester studying musical theatre before becoming an acting major and transferring to the School of Theatre and Film in ASU's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. It was there, during her second semester at ASU, where she learned about an open call for the first national tour of what was then a brand new Broadway hit musical: Spring Awakening.

"My mom flew me to Boston for the audition," recalls Alabado, who says she never hesitated dropping everything to follow her dream. "It was my end goal. That was the best decision I ever made because I got my Broadway debut shortly thereafter."

The then 18-year-old Alabado was called back the next day in Boston for a second audition, which was followed by a weeklong audition in New York.

"I wasn't expecting anything out of it; I was just loving the ride," she says. One week later, while back in Tempe, she got the news that she was in the show. The Chandler native finished the semester, packed up her life and moved to New York to begin rehearsing. "It was a fast process for me. I've been very lucky."

The first national tour of "Spring Awakening" took place in 2008 – with a stop at our very own ASU Gammage – an experience Alabado looks back on with fondness. In her two years with the musical, she had the opportunity to perform every role as an understudy and a member of the stage ensemble. Being an understudy and getting called up can be chaotic, she says, but also thrilling.

"It's always a different situation," she says. "Every once in a while, a lead performer will need to take a personal day and we will get a couple days notice, but most of the time it's pretty last-minute."

One time Alabado already was in hair and makeup when she was told she would be performing another's role that evening.

"In 'Spring Awakening,' I went on for somebody during intermission," she says, in a surprisingly casual tone.

In four short years, Alabado has kept busy in the world of professional theater where she has landed roles on and off Broadway. Her latest success was performing in the original Broadway production of the musical Green Day's American Idiot. Now in its first national tour, the show is coming to Gammage April 24, with Alabado performing in the ensemble.

Set and arranged to Green Day's 2004 fist-pumping, rock-anthem album "American Idiot" – featuring songs such as "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," "21 Guns," and "Wake Me Up When September Ends" – the musical tells a story of three best friends who are forced to choose between following their dreams and settling for the safety of suburbia.

"American Idiot" is a rock opera, explains Alabado, who had the chance to work with the show's director Michael Mayor in rehearsals. Mayor also directed "Spring Awakening" and the recent television series "Smash" about the making of a Broadway show.

"Most of the show is back-to-back music," Alabado says. "It's about three guys coasting through life in suburbia but wanting something more. It shows where they end up, the path they take, the people they meet. It's beautiful and touching, and something everyone can connect to. Everyone's been in that small town wanting something more."  

According to Alabado, being part of the original cast, as well as being on tour, has been "unbelievable" – and the icing on the cake was getting to perform with Green Day's lead guitarist and vocalist Billy Joe Armstrong on Broadway.

After what appears to have been a succession of surreal life moments for Alabado, she says she is happy to have been part of the "American Idiot" tour from the beginning, as it has given her a more forgiving schedule. 

"Being on the tour has been great because of the long rehearsal process, which has been very collaborative and personal," says Alabado, whose career took off so fast that nearly every opportunity was met with a mighty "sink or swim" challenge. With her current tour, however, she has had time to take a breath; work with the director, choreographer and writers; and take time to fully get comfortable with the show.

Even when it can be grueling, Broadway is a life she's in love with, she says.

"I love New York. It is so fun being an actor in this city. The Broadway community is much smaller than you think – we all know each other. So many people think it's a cutthroat business, and while you are out there for yourself you also feel like you're part of a team. I feel supported by my friends even when we're in the same audition."

Now having "made it" in New York, Alabado says Gammage holds a special place in her heart.

"Every time I play Gammage, it's so strange. I grew up watching shows there – so the first time I performed on that stage, it was the weirdest thing. It's like home."

To see Krystina Alabado perform in the hit Broadway musical "American Idiot," April 24-29, visit the ASU Gammage box office or call 480-965-3434.