×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

A scathing and topical satire on matters patriotic and political with an emo rock soundtrack.

With:
Andrew Jackson - Benjamin Walker The Storyteller - Kristine Nielsen Calhoun - Darren Goldstein Cobbler, John Quincy Adams - Jeff Hiller Monroe - Ben Steinfeld Rachel Maria - Elena Ramirez Clay - Bryce Pinkham Red Eagle - Greg Hildreth Van Buren - Lucas Near-Verbrugghe Lyncoya - Cameron Ocasio

With their bloody-good “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” director-librettist Alex Timbers and composer-lyricist Michael Friedman have woven a scathing and topical satire on matters patriotic and political, and they’ve done it with the sound of emo rock, which might be hard to swallow for some traditional theatergoers. Downtown hit could prove a tough sell in a Broadway house, but the show’s commercial producers have demonstrated keen marketing in the past, with diverse fare including “Spring Awakening” and “August: Osage County.” Word of mouth will loom large with this one.

Taking our seventh president — the guy on the 20-dollar bill — from the pages of history and reading through the whitewashed lines, Timbers and Friedman have drawn a people’s hero who thumbs his nose (and other more graphic parts) at the powers that be. Jackson’s America-first, take-no-prisoners rabble-rousing took him all the way to the White House, and has earned him a place of honor on the list of great American heroes, despite (or perhaps in recognition of) his having all but wiped out what we nowadays refer to as Native Americans.

Emo is something of an offshoot of hardcore rock with a mix of punk, marked by overwrought lyrics often speaking of teen angst. Friedman, of the avant garde group the Civilians, immediately jumps on this in his opening number; this early-1800s historical fantasy begins with the line, “Why wouldn’t you ever go out with me in school?”

The score is different from almost anything heard on Broadway, and in contrast to current rock musicals, the decibel level is manageable (which might be why we can understand the lyrics). This is due in part to the small band, with conductor Justin Levine on piano and guitar along with a second guitarist and a well-worked drummer. Some of the actors occasionally pick up a guitar as well, while Levine gets to sing one of the score’s finest songs, “Second Nature.”

Timbers, whose downtown group Les Freres Corbusier is known for rude entertainments like “A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant,” laces his book and direction with wild and zany humor. It’s proven prescient, as well: Despite strong parallels to the Tea Party movement and its present-day candidates, “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” premiered in Los Angeles in January 2008, before the Tea Party was birthed.

Other than a handful of cast replacements and ongoing script updates (there’s even a line about Delaware Republican Christine O’Donnell’s witchcraft dabbles), the show seems pretty much as it was in its spring appearance Off Broadway at the Public Theater, which serves as lead producer, along with Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel.

The result of all this is a production that soars along like a carnival ride. Timbers is abetted by scenic designer Donyale Werle, who has tricked out the wide stage of the Jacobs — and the entire auditorium, too — with what look to be tag-sale discards from the Smithsonian attic. Justin Townsend, too, contributes with a lighting scheme that ties stage and auditorium together with countless chandeliers and long, colored neon strips.

Benjamin Walker, in a star-making performance, leads the cast of 14. Looking and acting totally unlike how Andrew Jackson must have looked and acted, he is at once a handsome leading man and a sulking child in the nursery. The actors who stand out are those with the most outlandish comic material: Ben Steinfeld (as James Monroe), Jeff Hiller (as a back-country cobbler and John Quincy Adams), Kristine Nielsen (as the Storyteller), and Lucas Near-Verbrugghe (as Martin van Buren, stuffing anachronistic Twinkies in his mouth).

Call it provocative anarchy, a 21st-century equivalent to the Marx Brothers’ “Duck Soup.” At one point, van Buren, Jackson’s veep and successor in the Oval Office, complains that Andrew is being “laissez-unfair.” The authors are inarguably and entertainingly laissez-unfair to the Founding Fathers, tea-bagging Republicans, right-wing populists, handicapped narrators in motorized wheelchairs wearing sweaters with dancing bears, Native Americans, and just about whatever targets dart past their flyswatters.

Songs: “Populism, Yea, Yea!” “I’m Not that Guy,” “Illness as Metaphor,” “I’m So That Guy,” “Ten Little Indians,” “The Corrupt Bargain,” “Rock Star,” “The Great Compromise,” “Public Life,” “Crisis Averted,” “The Saddest Song,” “Second Nature,” “Hunters of Kentucky”

Popular on Variety

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Jacobs; 1,078 seats; $131.50 top

Production: The Public Theater (Artistic Director Oskar Eustis; Executive Director Andrew D. Hamingson), Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, Norton Herrick & Norton Herrick Entertainment, Susan Quint Gallin/Mary Lu Roffe/Jennifer Manocherian, Stewart F. Lane & Bonnie Comley, Universal Pictures Stage Productions, Nancy C. Paduano/Harold Thau, Toula C. Phillips and Center Theatre Group in association with Les Freres Corbusier

Creative: Set, Donyale Werle; costumes, Emily Rebholz; lighting, Justin Townsend; sound, Bart Fasbender; music direction, Justin Levine; production stage manager, Arthur Gaffin. Opened October 13, 2010. Reviewed Oct. 9. Running time: 1 HOUR, 35 MIN.

Cast: Andrew Jackson - Benjamin Walker The Storyteller - Kristine Nielsen Calhoun - Darren Goldstein Cobbler, John Quincy Adams - Jeff Hiller Monroe - Ben Steinfeld Rachel Maria - Elena Ramirez Clay - Bryce Pinkham Red Eagle - Greg Hildreth Van Buren - Lucas Near-Verbrugghe Lyncoya - Cameron OcasioWith: James Barry, Nadia Quinn, Kate Cullen Roberts, Emily Young.

More Legit

  • Broadway Review: David Byrne's 'American Utopia'

    Broadway Review: David Byrne's 'American Utopia'

    One constant of David Byrne’s long and prolific career is his ability to grow a seemingly simple idea into something brilliant, whether it’s the melody of “Road to Nowhere” or the concept of the “Stop Making Sense” tour some 36 years ago, where the premise of bringing out nine musicians, one at a time per [...]

  • The Sound Inside review

    Broadway Review: 'The Sound Inside' Starring Mary-Louise Parker

    Mary-Louise Parker will take your breath away with her deeply felt and sensitively drawn portrait of a tenured Yale professor who treasures great literature, but has made no room in her life for someone to share that love with. The other thesp in this two-hander is Will Hochman, endearing in the supportive role of a [...]

  • Little Shop of Horrors review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Little Shop of Horrors'

    With its strains of kitschy doo-wop and its sci-fi B-movie inspirations, the quaint 1982 musical “Little Shop of Horrors” hardly seems a thing of modern-day revivalism, even despite its touches of S&M. Yet this year alone, not only is there an Off Broadway production of the blackly comic “Little Shop” featuring Jonathan Groff of Netflix’s [...]

  • The Lightning Thief review musical

    Broadway Review: 'The Lightning Thief,' The Musical

    “It’s a lot to take in right now,” says Percy Jackson, the teen hero of “The Lightning Thief,” the kid-centric fantasy musical (based on the popular Y.A. novel) that’s now on Broadway after touring the country and playing an Off Broadway run. You could say that’s a bit of an understatement from contemporary teen Percy [...]

  • The Rose Tattoo review

    Broadway Review: 'The Rose Tattoo' Starring Marisa Tomei

    “The Rose Tattoo” is what happens when a poet writes a comedy — something strange, but kind of lovely. The same might be said of director Trip Cullman’s production: Strange, if not exactly lovely. Even Marisa Tomei, so physically delicate and expressively refined, seems an odd choice to play the lusty and passionate protagonist, Serafina [...]

  • Obit-Roy-B

    Former NATO President Roy B. White Dies at 93

    Roy B. White, former president and chairman of the National Association of Theater Owners, died of natural causes Oct. 11 in Naples, Fla. He was 93. White ran the 100-screen independent theater circuit, Mid–States Theaters Inc. In addition to his career, he did extensive work on behalf of charities and non-profits. He was vice president [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content