Neil Diamond had Caroline. The Allman Brothers had Jessica. And Green Day? Well, they had "Whatsername." Actress Rebecca Naomi Jones is doing her part to make her a little less anonymous in American Idiot, the new Broadway show written and produced by the band, based on their 2004 rock opera of the same name. Jones brings an angelic yet powerful voice and a mop of wild curly hair to her role as the spacey beauty pursued by Johnny (Spring Awakening's John Gallagher Jr.), a restless kid from the suburbs who travels to a post-9/11 New York, guitar in hand--which soon gets replaced by heroin. It's not your typical tap-dance-and-romance Broadway show. But that's nothing new for Jones. She's carved out a nice niche for herself as the girl to call when there's a coolerthan- thou musical in town -- like 2008's Passing Strange (with its 20- somethings "finding themselves" in Amsterdam). But she was a little wary of AI. at first. "I was a little bit upturn nosey about it because Passing Strange had been this avant-garde, funky little rebel show," she says. "But what I love about American Idiot is that it's this abstract, arty piece, even though it's this mega-commercially attractive thing."
Growing up in Tribeca ("before it was hip"), Jones thought "theater was for nerds" and preferred to sing along with her musician father to his Santana, Beatles and Motown records. But she's since changed her tune. And who can blame her? She's been spending her days hanging out with Billie Joe Armstrong and the rest of Green Day, who have been very hands-on from the get-go. "We've definitely had fun times with them, and they've allowed us to come be part of their cool 'rock star guy' world." But that's not to say she's as punk rock as "Whatsername." The hot-pink streak in her hair was dyed for the part. "It makes me feel so much cooler than I am."
AMERICAN IDIOT is currently playing at the St. James Theatre, 246 W. 44th St., New York.