These Paper Bullets, the Yale Repertory Theatre world premiere which features new Beatles-style songs by Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong and a script (adapted from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing) by Rolin Jones, who’s written for TV’s Weeds and Friday Night Lights, opened March 20 and closes April 5.
Those who need Billie Joe Armstrong to be all Green Day all the time won’t know what to do with his Lennon-McCartney pastiches (circa 1964). But these are sturdy, catchy numbers that you want to hear over and over. In the show, they’re played live and loud, with convincing Beatlesque harmonies and guitar jangles, by The Quartos—actors David Wilson Barnes, Bryan Fenkart, James Barry and Lucas Papaelias. All The Quartos play their instruments for real. Barry is a member of the first national tour of the rock musical Million Dollar Quartet, Papaelias was in the original cast of the stage musical version of Once, and Fenkart has released two albums as a singer-songwriter.
A couple of Armstrong’s songs are contained in video ads for the show found on the Yale Rep site, here. A couple of numbers, like the second-half showstopper “Regretfully Yours,” really need to be seen in the context of the show (and its romantic Shakespearean plot) to be fully appreciated.
There’s nearly an album’s worth of music in this show—besides Armstrong’s songs, there’s incidental music composed by Broken Chord, the New York company which also is in charge of These Paper Bullets!’s overall sound design. No word on whether any of this will get released, or if These Paper Bullets! has a life after Yale. But Billie Joe Armstong’s recent foray into harmony-based pop suggests that fans can accept him outside of his ’80s punk persona. Having his Beatles-theater songs out there wouldn’t be any kind of stretch. And they’re songs you want to own.