Jamal A. Shuriah
by Genea L. Webb
For New Pittsburgh Courier
Jamal A. Shuriah said the emotion in each scene and the music is what drew him to audition for a role in “American Idiot.”
“I had never heard of the show or had the chance to see it. It was something completely different for me,” said Shuriah, 25, who was born in the Bronx, NY but grew up in Great Neck. He is a part of the ‘American Idiot’ ensemble cast. “I went through a rocker phase in middle school and I did my own thing. This is my first mainstream show. I’m glad to be a part of something like this so early in my career.”
“American Idiot” is an adaptation of punk rock group Green Day’s 2004 album of the same name. Written by Green Day front man and guitarist, Billy Joe Armstrong and Tony-winning director Michael Mayer, “American Idiot” is the story is about three young friends—Johnny, Tunny and Will– who are searching for the meaning of life in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks
Johnny and Tunny run from a stifling suburban life style complete with restrictions from their parents while Will stays at home to work on his relationship with his pregnant girlfriend.
Tunny joins the military and is shipped off to war, Johnny discovers a part of himself that he dislikes and has a relationship and experiences lost love.
The score includes all of the songs from the group’s “American Idiot” album and new Green Day songs.
The musical was first performed at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 2009. It was the top-grossing show in the Berkeley Theatre’s history. Following Berkeley, ‘American Idiot’ moved to the St. James Theater on Broadway in April of 2010. It closed on Broadway after 422 performances, earning two Tony Awards in 2010—Best Scenic Design of a Musical and Best Lighting Design—during its run.
“American Idiot” runs at Heinz Hall through February 24. Each show is one hour and 35 minutes without an intermission.
Shuriah believes that Pittsburgh audiences will relate to the boys’ struggles and triumphs.
“9/11 effects us all in one way or another and the subject of losing someone is every relatable. I think the show is edgy and regardless of if you like Green Day or not, the songs, the story and the music—drugs, sex, alcohol and self-discovery—makes it relatable. Life is about trial and error and experiencing something new. These three boys take three different paths and it affects them all,” Shuriah said.
Shuriah began singing at the tender age of 7 and began performing in a local theater company called Levels and played in such productions as “Hair” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.” He attended the BFA program at the Hartt School, which is where his confidence really took off.
After numerous auditions and a series of small roles, Shuriah landed the role of Simba in Disney Cruise Lines production of “Golden Mickey’s.” He worked a year and a half with the company, performing on the Disney Wonder and the Disney Magic ocean liners.
“I went to Alaska, Mexico and a lot of places that I never thought I’d never go to at this age Disney is huge and once you are in the system they can always call you. It’s a nice family to belong to,” Shuriah said.
Being a part of Disney cruise lines afforded Shuriah the opportunity to complete numerous items on his bucket list including skydiving at 18,000 feet and climbing a glacier in Alaska.
“A lot of these things I never thought I’d do at this age,” Shuriah said.
He is proud to be a part of the “American Idiot” clan as well. Shuriah will be with the American tour until his contract expires in mid May when the tour heads to the Orient, playing in theaters throughout Asia.
“After seeing ‘American Idiot,’ audiences will walk away from an amazing show and have a better understanding of life,” Shuriah said. “Life is full of new adventures and people shouldn’t be afraid to try new experiences. Life is beautiful and people should live it to the fullest.”
Following his time in “American Idiot,” Shuriah hopes to get into commercials and continue auditioning for any and every type of entertainment role.
“Aspiring performers should audition as much as they can. They want to be seen and to be seen you have to persevere,” Shuriah said. “Auditioning one day will help you get the role of your dreams.”