While the story of America’s seventh President, Andrew Jackson, is vaguely taught in today’s increasingly shoddy public school systems, this new musical sets out to retell his story through the eyes of teen angst, imagining the “last of the founding fathers” was a really pissed off guy who waged war on American Indians, the British, and just about anyone else who looked at him the wrong way, including George Washington and the rest of the good ol’ boys running the country.
President Jackson, like many modern twenty-somethings, was a true outsider in politics, fighting to breach the gap between elitist lawmakers and the common man. This new musical’s opening number, “Populism, Yea, Yea,” is a catchy rock tune laying the groundwork for the journey ahead, full of schizophrenic choreography and Jackson’s (Benjamin Walker) yearning need for change.
Over the course of the fast-paced production, cleverly tightened since its previous out-of-town production and concert staging, President Jackson’s history is told as a blend of fact and fiction, covering his childhood and ending during his showdown with the establishment as he struggles to appease his adoring and quite often oblivious public and avoid the complete chaos that often comes with consistently relying on public opinion polls.
Director-writer Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman (music and lyrics) craft a mash-up of sorts, throwing in a handful of music forms and plenty of wink and nod humor, delivered with a Stephen Colbert dry wit from the motley ensemble of actors.
‘Bloody Bloody’ brings to mind the hilarious antics of Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Theatre, recollecting a premise thought up by a bunch of drunk fraternity guys looking for a couple of laughs, ala ‘Animal House’ with a little more singing and dancing. As such, its humor does begin to wear thin, and nearly three quarters of the way through falls victim to the exact art form it is ridiculing, with the title character losing all sense of wit and devolving into a depressive mope.
All is forgiven, however, as ‘Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson’ is both vibrant and refreshing, giving a much needed facelift to musical theatre.