DALLAS, TEXAS — Having scored a role in a Broadway-style touring production fresh out of college, city native and aspiring actor Dan Tracy is both appreciative and excited about the rare opportunity he’s earned in the role of “Tunny” in “American Idiot,” the musical adaptation of punk rock band Green Day’s multi-platinum album of the same name.
Mr. Tracy, 23 and a 2013 graduate of the University of Michigan’s noted theatre program, recently spoke about the plum role as he and his cohorts departed Dallas after a week’s stay. A product of St. Margaret School in Rumford and Providence’s LaSalle Academy, Mr. Tracy is about six weeks into a third national tour of the rock opera, which is readying for upcoming stops in the northeast, including five performances in New England.
“It’s going pretty well,” Mr. Tracy said by phone last week. “The show has been well received. I’ve had a really good time visiting the 20 cities we’ve been to so far and I’m looking forward to another 40 we have to go.
“We just had a week’s sit-down here in Dallas. I have no complaints. Everything’s going well. It’s a very different kind of show than most musicals. It’s very athletic. It takes a toll on our bodies. I was kind of running on fumes there for a while, but I’m ready to go. I’m really looking forward to coming back to the northeast.”
It was Mr. Tracy’s decision to attend college in the midwest, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, that played a significant role in his landing of the part in “American Idiot.”
“I got this job basically because I went to Michigan. I owe a lot to the people there. It was such a competitive atmosphere. I had to improve if I wanted to survive,” he explained. “They really do teach you how to be a professional there. You’re a commodity and you have to sell yourself. The people at Michigan really prepared you to get into the business.”
It was during the annual UM “Senior Showcase,” when showbiz producers, agents and casting directors descend upon Ann Arbor to scout the latest crop of talent, that he first caught the eye of those involved with “Idiot.”
“The casting director was in the audience. He liked what he saw. Then it was five months of trying to prove myself to them. They put me through the ringer. I had seven auditions before I finally got the part. I guess I did some things right,” Mr. Tracy quipped.
An admitted ham as a child, who liked to be the “center of attention,” Mr. Tracy was raised in a family that appreciated music and theatre. He also credited two of his childhood mentors, LaSalle Theatre Director Tom Haynes and St. Margaret Music Instructor Ron Precopio, as having the most direct influence on his pursuit of a career in the arts.
“LaSalle was the building block for me to get into Michigan. Tom Haynes told me I could do it. He had the confidence in me. He’s also the one who sat down with my family, with my mother (Molly) and my father (Kevin), and kind of convinced them, my father especially, that I should pursue this,” Mt. Tracy said. “And Ron Procopio is the really the reason why I’m a performer. He’s the one who got me started in the choir, took us to PPAC (Providence Performing Arts Center). He knew I had the bug. I thank both of those men for what they did for me.”
The role of “Tunny” presents challenges to any actor due to his complex, aggressive nature and because of the physical limitations he incurs.
“Tunny,” along with “Will,” are two best friends of “Idiot’s” protagonist, “Johnny,” all of whom face some form of struggle as they move into adulthood. Mr. Tracy’s “Tunny” eventually leaves his home town, “Jungle Town,” for the “big” city. Still without direction, he joins the Army, sees combat in a Middle East conflict and loses a leg. He returns home continuing his search for meaning in his life.
“He doesn’t fit in. He gets into the hardcore music scene. He’s a rebel. He has 13 tattoos. He’s searching for a purpose in his life,” Mr. Tracy said of his character. “He joins the Army, is wounded, his leg is amputated, he gets the Purple Heart. He falls in love with a nurse. He comes home still trying to figures things out.”
With dozens of shows now under his belt, Mr. Tracy said his understanding of the character and his performances continue to improve each time he takes the stage.
“I feel like I’m developing the character more and more every night. I started in a place where I felt like it was this other person I was trying to create. Now I feel as though I know the character and there’s more and more of me in him every day,” Mr. Tracy said of “Tunny.”
“A lot of that has to do with the director and the producers,” he continued. “They’ve given us a lot of freedom to explore the characters and express ourselves. It’s an awesome opportunity to have as a performer.”
As for working impaired at times due to “Tully’s” amputation, Mr. Tracy is quick to acknowledge the set crew for their work.
“I’ve got a wheelchair rig and other times my leg is hidden,” he added. “The crew has done a great job with it. I actually have had people come up to me congratulating me for doing the role with my disability or asking if I’m an amputee. I tell them, no, I have both legs.”
“Idiot” has played pretty much to positive reviews throughout its run. According to promotional literature, it’s a one-act, through-sung stage musical, which began in California in 2009 then debuted on Broadway a year later before ending its year-long stay on the “Great White Way” in 2011. There’s been two previous touring productions. The third and current tour is expected to be its last.
The musical takes its cue from Green Day’s album, which was released in 2004 and has sold over 15 million copies worldwide, 6 million alone in the United States. Green Day lead singer, guitarist and lyricist Billy Joe Armstrong is responsible for nearly all of the material on the record and the musical. Director Michael Mayer is also credited for his contribution to the Broadway production. Fans of the band have helped the musical approach the same level of success as the album upon which it’s based.
“It’s been really nice to have the support of the audience for a show like this,” Mr. Tracy said. “As a performer, it makes you give even more when the crowd is into it like they’ve been. It’s like a rock concert. It’s great to get that kind of feedback. I’m excited to get that type of emotion when we get back near home.”
The next step
Mr. Tracy and his “Idiot” castmates are signed to the show through the end of the tour this spring. Unfortunately, he’ll still be on the road when other productions, including television pilots, are being cast, but he intends to pursue all avenues available to him when his run with “Idiot” ends.
“Hopefully I can continue to ride this wave and see where it takes me,” Mr. Tracy added. “I thought about going back to school for producing, but I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m just going to continue on. I’d like to eventually write and direct as well. You’ve really got to able to do it all in order to support yourself, to make a living in this business.”
“American Idiot” the musical comes to the northeast over the next few weeks. Upcoming area performances show, which Mr. Tracy noted is “R rated. There’s some explicit content,” include: Amherst, Mass., Feb. 4, UMass Concert Hall; Portland, Maine, Feb. 6, Merrill Auditorium; Boston, Feb. 7-9, Boston Opera House; Burlington, Vt., Feb. 11-12, Flynn Center; Morristown, N.J. Feb. 13, Mayo Performing Arts Center; Waterbury, Conn, Feb. 15, Palace Theatre. For ticket information visit www.americanidiotthemusical.com.