“I get to keep the dreads, but I was never going to lose them,” Newton Faulkner’s trademark hairstyle may be present in his latest stage appearance, but don’t be expecting his anthemic hits when he performs in Sunderland next week.
The double platinum-selling singer songwriter, whose chart-toppers include Dream Catch Me and I Need Something, has joined the cast of American Idiot, an explosive musical featuring the music of US punk pop legends Green Day.
After seven shows playing Johnny, Newton is green to the show and says people are still surprised to hear that the star is treading the boards.
“People still don’t understand that I’m in the show, they see pictures of me on stage and say ‘why are you dressed like that?’ ‘Why are you wearing eyeliner?’, it’s great fun,” he explains.
Newton dons his ‘guyliner’ as the antihero in a trio of boyhood friends, each searching for meaning in a post 9/11 world to the tune of some of Green Day’s greatest hits, including Boulevard of Broken Dreams, 21 Guns, Wake Me Up When September Ends, Holiday and title track American Idiot.
The musician’s involvement in the show, which also features X Factor’s Amelia Lily as Whatsername and Jarrow’s Alice Stokoe as Extraordinary Girl, was almost serendipitous.
He explained: “A while ago I was asked to do the music for a computer game. They ended up not using my music, but they used my voice for a character. It was really fun working with a script.
“It got my brain working in a different way and I spoke to a couple of acting agents to gauge the temperature of how it would work. We decided a musical would be a great crossover point and he mentioned American Idiot, but at that point I had no link to the show.
“The next week I got a phone call from an old friend, Lucas Rush, who I hadn’t spoken to for at least ten years who is in American Idiot and said they were looking for a Johnny. We had actually been in a Green Day covers band together when we were 12.
“In a way me being in the show makes sense, but then it makes no sense at all. And that’s why it appealed to me.”
Newton’s soaring vocals, which launched him onto the music scene in 2007, seem to be striking a chord with theatre-goers.
“The show gets such a good audience response, there’s some seriously passionate people out there.” he said. “It’s much darker than I anticipated, but it’s got a little bit of everything, it’s funny too.”
But fans of the artist needn’t worry: he isn’t hanging up his guitar for good.
“I’m really enjoying that I have a distraction and that when I play guitar now it’s because I want to, not because I have to,” said Newton, who released his latest album Human Love, last year.
“I’m on tour with American Idiot until the end of September, then I know where I want to be with my own music.”
Newton says his last album and tour was a personal highlight for him in a career which has seen him hit the No 1 album spot with 2007’s Hand Built by Robots and 2012’s Write It On Your Skin, as well as his music becoming the first dance soundtrack for countless weddings.
“I took a break on a high,” he said. “The last tour was probably the best I’ve done, the response was amazing. I’d written that album for a very specific purpose, and that was to be performed live. That was a huge part of the decision-making process.
He says American Idiot has also proved a highlight.
“Going into a two-hour show and learning it in a week was utterly nerve-wracking but incredibly rewarding.”
Who knew that when a young Newton bought his first ever album, Green Day’s Dookie, he’d go on to breathe new life to the rockers’ songs on stage, by way of his own multi-million record selling career.
•American Idiot is at Sunderland Empire from May 24-28. Tickets are available in person at the Box Office on High Street West, from the Ticket Centre on 0844 871 3022 or online at www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland
Calls cost 7p per minute plus your standard network charge. Booking fees may apply to telephone and online bookings