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A CurtainUp Review
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
By Jenny Sandman
While packed with enough history to be a history lesson, the show is more akin to Spring Awakening. The songs are raw and fierce ("Why wouldn't you go out with me in high school?"), the characters throb with adolescent angst, and Andrew Jackson is, oddly, a natural choice for the play's star—he was, after all, the country's first experiment with electing a president based on his charisma and personality, rather than on his ability to lead.
Historians remains undecided about Jackson. Was he a great military leader and uniter? Or was he an American Hitler? Those coming down on the yes side of the first question can point to his having brought modern-day Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama and Florida into the union, more than doubling the size of the US, and rousted British troops permanently from American soil. On the other hand, he conquered and killed thousands of Native Americans, and signed the legislation that led to the Trail of Tears—in which the entire remaining Cherokee population east of the Mississippi was forcibly marched into Oklahoma, killing nearly a third along the way. Jackson was the first presiden to champion the common man, as well as the first not from the political elite. He created the Democratic party, and consolidated presidential power, transforming it into the most powerful branch of government. Oh, and he was hot and sexy.
Played by the hot and sexy Benjamin Walker, Jackson is equal parts High School Musical, Saturday Night Live, and Animal House. While he's "emo" to the core ("emo" being both a rock genre and a lifestyle dedicated to wearing one's heart on one's sleeve). He's also insouciant and defiant, taking pleasure in aggravating the Washington fat cats while courting the populace and, of coursesinging and dancing.
Jackson's Oval Office is decorated with his initials separated by a lightning bolt, in an obvious homage to AC/DC, and at political rallies, his fans hold up signs that say "Jax Rox" (in sparkles) and "EMOcracy." Need I say more?
Les Freres Corbusier is known for its irreverently clever productions, including an adaptation of Hedda Gabler with robots. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson carries on this spirit. The ensemble is one of the finest in New York right now, and they're all as happily hormonal and outré as Jackson himself. Look for finely caricatured performances of James Monroe (Ben Steinfeld), Henry Clay (Bryce Pinkham), Martin Van Buren (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe), John Quincy Adams (Jeff Hiller) and John Calhoun (Darren Goldstein). A delightfully cluttered set by Donyale Werle and extremely loud guitar (Justin Levine) and drums (Kevin Garcia) complete the party atmosphere.
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is the most fun I've had at a play this year, and at $10, it's the best bargain in town. If only all our presidents could be as entertaining and good for our pocketbooks.