Tuesday, December 7, 2010

BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON • Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre

When you first walk into the 1078 seat Jacobs, you're met with a theatre that has been adorned with fairy lights, stuffed moose heads, bears and a horse hanging upside down over the orchestra seats.  There are portraits of dead presidents all over the place, and all kinds of assorted stuff on the stage.  This visual onslaught perfectly sets up BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON, an "emo" rock musical that looks at how this roughneck frontiersman wound up in the White House.

This cheeky in-your-face downtown musical, recently brought uptown, examines the controversial seventh president of the United States, during a time when the country was in its adolescence -- in the language and music of today, with Jackson being portrayed as an irresistible tight jeans wearing rock star type.  "Old Hickory"'s life is presented in a series of scenes (by a narrator in a motorized wheelchair, infatuated with Jackson) that come off more like skits, with songs like "Populism, Yea, Yea!" and "Ten Little Indians", performed with boundless energy by the young cast and the onstage 3 piece band.  The highlights of Andrew Jackson's life (played by a very compelling Benjamin Walker), include him being orphaned early in his life, his military career, his rise to power as the people's president, and his infamous forced relocation of Native Americans.  There are tons of anachronisms and parallel lines drawn in the show, like when Jackson, dripping with sexual energy, tells us about his "stimulus package".

The cast of
BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON
Many think this show is a little too clever and smug for its own good, but I thought it was refreshing to see this kind of thing on Broadway.  Even though a couple of people walked out halfway through the show (it runs about 90 minutes with no intermission), I thought it was fun and different.  There were younger folks in front of me that were eating this show up with a spoon, so although it may not fit the mold, it's something that could bring new audiences into the theatre, which to me is a good thing.  It's nice to be reminded that the path of a president doesn't really change much, regardless of what century you're in, and the mixing of a 19th century president presented in modern terms works, and makes you think about the state of the nation, and where we've come from after you leave.

The Hanging Horse
Unfortunately, BBAJ will be closing on January 2nd.  Maybe its vibe plays better off-Broadway than on, but it's cool and hip, even though it may exaggerate the truth at times.  I'd still prefer a history lesson like this one as opposed to the crap I endured when I was in school.


BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON
Book by Alex Timbers 
Music/lyrics by Michael Friedman
Directed by Alex Timbers
Bernard B Jacobs Theatre, 242 West 45th St. New York, NY
through January 2 | tickets: $51.50 - $131.50
Performances Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at 7pm, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm, Sundays at 2pm and 7pm

Cast:
Benjamin Walker (Andrew Jackson), James Barry (Male Soloist/Citizen/Phil), Darren Goldstein (Andrew Sr./Calhoun), Greg Hildreth (Red Eagle/University President), Jeff Hiller (Cobbler/Messenger/John Quincy Adams/Tour Guide/Florida Man), Lucas Near-Verbrugghe (Keokuk/Van Buren), Cameron Ocasio (Lyncoya), Bryce Pinkham (Black Fox/Clay), Nadia Quinn (Toula/Female Ensemble), Maria-Elena Ramirez (Rachel/Florida Woman), Kate Cullen Roberts (Elizabeth/Erica), Ben Steinfeld (Monroe), Emily Young (Female Soloist/Announcer/Naomi) and Kristine Neilsen (the Storyteller).

Creative:
Writer & director, Alex Timbers; music & lyrics by Michael Friedman; choreography by Danny Mefford; scenic design by Donyale Werle; costume design by Emily Rebholz; lighting design by Justin Townsend; sound design by Bart Fasbender; music director, bandleader, Justin Levine; stage manager, Jamie Greathouse.
Musicians:
Justin Levine, Charlie Rosen and Kevin Garcia.

2 comments:

  1. Yeah...that stuff is much better on Off-Broadway...you go there and expect the weird and to be blown away. Mainstream Broadway has no tolerance for the unconventional unfortunately. I've walked out on one play in my life...it was about Erroll Flynn sleeping with young women and the star of the play, Tracey Ullman (who is normally fabulous), played a woman who's daughter was flynn's latest lover. It was a one-woman show and it should've been fabulous but basically no one cared...the play itself bored me to tears and I JUST.DIDN'T.CARE about the plot or the characters AT ALL!! I was so disappointed in Tracey Ullman...sigh...

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  2. Yeah, something about the tone of BBAJ was a little off. I like smug, but they were a little too smug for their own good. I did enjoy it though.

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