Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson Puts the Emo in dEMOcracy

Broadway has seen its fair share of offbeat musicals in recent years, but The Public Theatre's emo rock opera about controversial president Andrew Jackson seems like a combo that's just to weird to work.

Taking the life story of the president that is responsible for the Trail of Tears which caused the deaths of numerous Native Americans, and fusing it with rockstar celebrity, it just somehow makes sense in today's day and age, making history more accessible by re-enacting it through modern tropes.

However, I was a poor history student so I really have no idea whether what I was hearing and seeing was even remotely accurate, but it sparked in me a desire to find out the true story behind the "American Hitler" that's also considered one of our greatest presidents "who put the Man in Manifest Destiny".

The show is playing at Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, where the stage is small but even with a drum kit and piano set up, the cast makes good use of the space. The entire theatre is done up like a Wild West saloon with empty beer cans, animals stuffed and surrounding the stage, with an overall rockabilly flair. With parts of the cast coming out and playing instruments, it was a full blown band performance.

But this is where the show falters. The songs are not strong enough to stick in your head, leaving you unable to remember any individual song or lyrics. The singing falls a bit flat, never producing the power of Broadway vocals that gives you the chills. The music itself is really good, but the song compositions often break it up too much to really get into.

That said, the theatrical performances of the cast were amazing. Each member had great comedic timing and the supporting cast transformed itself with each change of scene, going from Southern Rednecks to Washington Aritocrats flawlessly. Benjamin Walker as Andrew Jackson was thoroughly charismatic, Maria Elena Ramirez felt like a poor casting choice as his wife, but it was Jeff Hiller as backup characters who stold every scene.

So all in all, it was a darn good time and had me laughing throughout, and even though the music I found lacking, it was refreshing to see something a bit more rock'n'roll in the form of a very un-PC, historical satire. Dare I say, it was a bloody good time.

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