Theatre Review: “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” @ Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 10/10/10

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson opened to rave reviews Off-Broadway at The Public Theatre in New York City in March and ran through June 2010. Three months later, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson transferred to Broadway and became the first musical to open the 2010-11 Broadway season.

And, I wonder if it should have just stayed Off-Broadway.

The quirky premise of this short 1-act musical parodies Andrew Jackson’s life, marriage, populism and The Indian Removal Act all under the guise that Jackson is an emo-rock star. Some guy-liner and tight pants seemed to be the only “emo” thing about the piece.

The music, written by Broadway newcomer Michael Friedman, was a cross between folk, rock, camp-fire and musical theatre – not really true emo. To tout the show as an emo-rock musical and not really have any emo-rock music in it was a bit jarring. Emo music is categorized as expressive, confessional-type lyrics with soaring melodies that usually is in verse/chorus form. The vocals are usually the focus of the music while the guitars, bass and drum are in the background (think of bands like: Dashboard Confessionals, Fall Out Boy! or Jimmy Eat World). Some of the music was catchy and fun (and it will probably grow on me as I listen to the cast recording), but overall it didn’t propel the story forward or make me feel like I was a at an emo-rock concert – two things I desperately wanted it to do.

The whole show felt like it was glorified skit around a camp fire. The political nature of the script was interesting and very smart but it didn’t engage me enough to care at the end of the show. It seemed forced and a bit phony.

I just kept thinking, “Is this seriously a Broadway musical?” It had more “WTF” moments than any other show I’ve ever seen.

Benjamin Walker (Andrew Jackson) is hugely talented, but the surrounding cast seemed amateurish at best. The material didn’t let the cast shine. When the cast went to bow, the audience gently clapped while only a handful stood. It was one of the least enthusiastic curtain calls I’ve ever seen on Broadway.

Obviously, the critics and the sell-out audiences during it’s initial Off-Broadway run saw something in this piece; it’s an extremely creative and inventive experimental theatre. I just think it should have stayed Off-Broadway. It should be playing in a very intimate theatre where you can feel like you are a part of the show and not an idle observer from the back row of the orchestra.

Maybe, with different expectations and a better seat, I might have enjoyed Broadway’s newest musical.


5 thoughts on “Theatre Review: “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” @ Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 10/10/10

  1. Since I was in my teens (a VERY long time ago) I’ve always been a fan of most rock musicals — far more than most musical theater-loving folks.

    Once again, the Broadway Critic I think has likely nailed the problems with BBAJ.

    All video excerpts I seen from the show (or rehearsals) left me quite underwhelmed and questioning the move uptown.

    I agree too with the critic’s assessment of what is and more importantly is not, “emo-rock.”

    The most emo-rock of this production will likely be sung backstage when the closing notice goes up.

  2. I’m not so concerned with whether it’s “emo-rock” as whether it’s a consistently good show. I only saw the off-Broadway incarnation (which, I imagine, benefitted the show better with its smaller, more intimate space), but I found much of it great fun. However, I thought the tone of the show took a 180 near the end…which did not suit it at all.

    – Timothy Childs

    1. True… but I was expecting something very specific because of all the marketing. I wanted a sexy emo-rock musical. Instead I got an extremely irreverent parody with no historical accuracy and with plenty of political overtones and biases.

  3. Thanks for confirming my views of this massively over-hyped show. I have seen much more honest reviews of this show in the blog-o-sphere than with the big time newspaper/mass media and I swear, I seriously don’t know if everyone is watching the same show. Other than liking a president to a rock star styled story, I don’t think there is anything else original in the show at all. There is a part in the show where 3 native Americans come skipping out in unison from stage left that looks like a piece from, “The Little Rascals” when the gang dresses up like girls and skips around to show how, “girlie” they are. Then there’s the HILARIOUS part when the paralyzed storyteller has to LIFT her leg up so she can cross her legs. (I’ve seen paralyzed people actually doing this…and never even considered laughing at them) Then there’s the over the top HILARIOUS part in the show when actors get shot by arrows and they die in a manner which resembles the way, the backyard robbers die when Ralphie kills them with his Red-Rider BB gun in, “A Christmas Story”….They fall to their knees, roll eyes around a few times and fall to the ground with tongue out. Let’s not forget Jackson’s half Native American/half white son who understandably holds some resentment as to the way the Whites were treating the Native Americans when he runs through the set and screams, “Kill white people!!” This got a huge laugh from the people in the audience….I understand the way it was written and used in the show. However, the reaction from the 99% white audience is what I have problems with. It reminded me of the way countless amounts of white people had made jokes about black people calling for the downfall of, “The Man” or, “Kill whitey” years before any black comics started using that stuff in their routines. This is another great example of the way white people have felt entitled to laugh at the anger and frustration held by minorities based on the unfair treatment by the people in charge.

    This show is nothing but recycled crap after more recycled crap. Most of the costumes are off the rack pieces from downtown retail stores, the set is filled (and I do mean filled) with freebies from other shows or bought at garage sales, junk yards, etc. The music may have been hip a few years ago but is nothing more than different versions of commercials and the, “sexypants”ads all over town are nothing more than dusted off Bruce Springsteen’s, “Born in the USA” Album cover art.

    I could go on all day….But, I’ll just put it this way…The Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson reviews from the mass media critics must have something going on behind the scenes like owing favors to the Public theater or helping out some of the unnamed investors because this show might be a cute novelty for a small downtown theater, but on broadway, it’s not worth the money at all.

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