Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
This irreverent electrified musical bio of our seventh president will rock your socks off
Reviewed by Jillian Owens, Fri., June 22, 2012
Bloody Bloody Andrew JacksonBlue Theatre, 916 Springdale, 800/838-3006
Through July 1
Running time: 2 hr.
No matter which side of the aisle you sit on, let's be honest: We're all frustrated that our Congress won't pass a goddamned thing. Personally, I wish that the president would don some skinny jeans and eyeliner, pull a Bowie knife out of his belt, leap onto his desk in the Oval Office, and howl, "I've got some federal Metamucil to unclog Washington!" Because that's what Andrew Jackson did.
Or, rather, that's what he does onstage in the Doctuh Mistuh Productions staging of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. This wrist-slicing rock & roll populist ain't the 19th century president you know from those bills in your wallet (20 bucks to those who know which bill). This Jackson is gonna put it in you – democracy, that is.
The rock musical, which had successful off-Broadway and Broadway runs in 2009 and 2010, follows the complicated historical legacy of our seventh President, from his rough-and-tumble Tennessee childhood to his violent tenure as Florida's first governor to his ultra-creepy relationship with wife Rachel, and his "fuck you" attitude toward the 1% – I mean, elite federalist Washington. Portraying Jackson as a Keith Richards-type rock star is a brilliant move by Alex Timbers (book) and Michael Friedman (music and lyrics); the crowd thinks he's fuckin' cool, but backstage, he's kind of a douche bag. We love Jackson for claiming the southern half of the country, but we hate him for killing some 10,000 Indians to do it.
As Jackson, David Gallagher woos men and women alike with his dark voice, sexy smile, and well-sculpted face (not to mention the ultra-tight pants). The actor turns his energy level to "11," and the rest of the ensemble rises to meet him there, thanks in part to excellent vocal direction and staging from prolific musical master Michael McKelvey, who miraculously managed to squeeze two guitarists and 15 actors onto the Blue Theatre's intimate stage. Nearly everyone plays three, or five, or eight different roles, but the actors' versatility and Glenda Barnes' effective costuming render transitions seamless. I particularly loved the menacing gang of be-ruffled politicians, especially Jose Villarreal's one-eyed Henry Clay and Joey Banks' pasty, Twinkie-popping Martin Van Buren.
Honestly, my only beef with this otherwise thrilling production was the unfortunate, perhaps inevitable, issue of big sound in a little place. Designers Andrew Cannata, Joel Mercado-See, and McKelvey succeeded in eliminating mic feedback and tried heroically to equalize the room, but man, was it loud. If you have sensitive ears, you may consider preparing for it as you would for a rock concert.
Ultimately, though, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson rocked my socks off. Maybe one day we'll see the 44th commander-in-chief in his very own musical – called, perhaps, Barack Star.