Location: The Public Theater,
Website: Official Public Theater site
Starring: Benjamin Walker, Maria Elena Ramirez, Colleen Werthmann, Lucas Near-Verbrugghe, Jeff Hiller, Michael Crane, Michael Dunn, Greg Hildreth, Ben Steinfeld
My Review: Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is an emo rock musical that offers a satirical look at our controversial seventh President, who is played as a perpetually fame-hungry and petulant 20-something wearing tight jeans and dark eyeliner. And that one-sentence description is all you really need to determine whether or not this show is your cup of tea.
I thoroughly enjoyed BBAJ (as it will henceforth be called). When first entering the theater I knew I was about to see something truly bizarre and totally new. The entire room (stage and audience) is covered in plastic chandeliers and strings of Christmas lights that glow red, with Presidential portraits hanging askew on the walls, and baroque-style tapestries and furniture onstage. It’s like walking into a cross between a former President’s country estate and Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s lab from Rocky Horror. Then the cast stomps onstage—as angry, pale, and overly made up as any real emo band should be—and opens the show with the rousing anthem, “Populism, Yea, Yea!” And then they’re off and running for the next 90 minutes.
Throughout that hour and a half we’re given a condensed look at
It’s a testament to how good a show BBAJ is that while primarily focusing on the most atrocious aspects of
Helping to create this hilarious satire is the emo rock score that runs throughout BBAJ. Every song is loud and angry and loud and tortured and maybe not completely coherent or actually good…but it’s loud, dammit! Which means it means something, man! Not being overly familiar with this particular genre of music, I don’t know if all emo music is as over-the-top as BBAJ’s is, or if it’s been exaggerated for comedic effect. But in either case, it’s the perfect sound to reinforce just how frustrated and tormented poor, poor Andrew Jackson is (like when he sings about how “life sucks, and my life sucks in particular”).
Some time during the latter half of the show, BBAJ loses some of its steam and comes into a rather slow ending. Coincidentally (or not), this slowdown occurs once Jackson finally wins the Presidency, which turns out to be a bit of an indecisive letdown after the frantic campaign trail he ran to get there. The fact that this mirrors our most recent Presidential election could be a fluke, or maybe it’s a shrewd comment on how much we as a country haven’t really changed over the past 170 years. Which is enough to make anyone as angry and frustrated as Andrew Jackson.
Bottom Line: Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is a nearly completed work in progress. Having already been tweaked from its premiere in LA in 2008, it’s continuously being polished and tightened as it aims to make the jump from Off-Broadway to Broadway. With a few more songs and a final act that keeps up with the pace of the rest of the show, it should be ready for the move uptown, and able to appeal to audiences who have had enough of jukebox musicals and repurposed