Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson @ Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre

Move over traditional musical, indie rock is here to stay on Broadway. What RENT did for the village, Spring Awakening did for raging hormones, and Next to Normal did for a reversed Oedipus complex; Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson takes the typical history lesson by the collar, and gives a big F.U. to political correctness, stuffy explanations, and pompous “just-the-facts” attitude. It is set ablaze with a powerful score, an electrifying cast, and a production that captures the ferocity and complexity that was our seventh president – Andrew Jackson.

Even with an unusually quiet audience for such a powerhouse of a musical, the energy of the entire company – band included – creamed the scene with power and passion with not just the book, but the sheer subject matter. Touchy subjects – such as mass genocide and the infamous Trail of Tears – were approached with pristine wit and tenderness, creating an unsettling and yet spot on discourse within the audience members. The cast and crew nailed the feel good and thoughtful musical with a balance of ease that made it appear effortless.

Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman have created, what one audience member jokingly remarked, “The No-fear-Shakespeare for the history books, but done right!” Their work was refreshing among the other dime a dozen revivals and movie-made-musicals that seem to be creeping into the Big White Way. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is the little patch of underground utopia that restores faith for the modern musical.

Benjamin Walker is a riot as Jackson, with his keen sense to capture the unruliness and internal struggle of a brilliantly mad man, he does not fall short of kicking ass and taking numbers as well as making you weep. On a scale of one to ten, he blazed through at a constant fifty, light up the stage with his voice, timing, and clarity of his role. Also, Maria Elena Ramirez’s role as Rachael (Jackson’s wife), was stunning. In her most poignant number “The Great Compromise,” the little woman gives her character a sharp turn from the comedy into tragedy with such grace and precision, giving further definition to her character. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson’s stellar cast is rounded out by the brilliant ensemble. Each member does a great job of portraying many different characters and even picking up an instrument or two to play with the band!

With the Bernard B. Jacob Theatre looking more like the interior of a bar – with the d├ęcor landing somewhere between an old fashioned tavern and an AC/DC concert – the generation gap of both era and genre made for a phenomenal combination. As stunning as the costumes were, continuing to stick to a westernized feel of today’s multi-layered look, there were several unnecessary costume changes among the chorus members; which did nothing to enhance the plot or scene, but more so to inflate the ego of the fashion gods. The lighting aspect was a stunning visual orgasm, as color changing neon tubes protruded from the stage, rippling on and off between numbers for the hard rock effect; while hundreds upon thousands of strings of lights glowed overhead – and over every space available for that matter – to create that old time feel of Southern comforts for the more somber numbers. Justin Townsend, lighting designer for this production, better take one hell of a bow for pulling off one magnanimous spectacle.

With the tired, but true saying, “history always repeats itself,” the message in this production is clear, keeping its audience members interested in more ways than one. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is a must see, if not for the reasons above, then for at least a really crazy guy, in some really tight jeans.

Review By: James Russo & Sarah Hogan-DePaul


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