Suzi (k00kaburra) wrote,

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson: The Musical at San Jose Stage

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson: The Musical

"I'm wearing some tight, tight jeans, and tonight we're delving into some serious, serious shit. I'm Andrew Jackson. I'm your president."

Considering the man's on the twenty dollar bill, joining the monetary pantheon with Washington, Lincoln and Franklin, I feel like we really don't talk about Andrew Jackson enough.  Apparently, I'm not the only one to feel this way, since Michael Friedman and Alex Timbers put together an emo-rock musical about the seventh president of the United States, and San Jose Stage (last visited for Cabaret) is performing the show through the end of the month.  So let's take a look at Mr. Jackson through this irreverent loose cannon of a musical.

As a wheelchair-bound historian informs the audience, Jackson was a revolutionary, rough-and-tumble sort of hero ready to rock America. As he and his fellow frontiersmen in Tennessee suffer from attacks from the British, Spanish and Native populations (Jackson's parents are killed by Native Americans's arrows cholera) he begins to resent the men in Washington who ignore the plight of folks at the edge of America's borders.  He becomes increasingly involved with politics, much to the frustration of his wife and great love of his life, Rachel.  Jackson gains popular support from the "common people", much to the horror of established statesmen like Henry Clay and John Calhoun.  When he eventually wins the Presidency, Jackson is determined to take the country back - all the more so after Rachel "dies of grief" directly after the election.  However, the longer he's in office his role of "the voice of the people" morphs into something far more sinister...

This Andrew Jackson has all the impulse control of a teenager running wild with power - and that's what makes the musical so fun!  Cocksure and determined, Jackson is certain that he can solve any problem with his iron willpower or his gun.  He's trigger-happy, to say the least - early in the play, when Jackson tires of the professorial narrator's lecture on his early life, he shoots her in the neck so that he can proceed and tell his own damn story.  But every once in a while, a quiet lull forces Jackson to confront the monster he's becoming.  After the slaughter of a group of Native Americans that included women and children, Jackson adopts an orphaned Indian boy and takes him back to Rachel.  As Jackson grows older, he begins to obsess over his legacy. When he starts to realize that the steps he took to ensure America's growth into a powerful nation will be judged harshly by history, you can't help but feel sorry for him.

The music is lightweight rock that made me think of a Saturday Night Live sketch rather than your traditional Broadway musical.  But it's funny and sarcastic and at times, quite snarky.  The song "Ten Little Indians" is a dark twist on a children's rhyme that I imagine not a lot of kids get exposed to nowadays.   Many of the songs and scenes draw parallels to our current political climate, with Jackson reminding me of the rowdier members of the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street movements.

This definitely entertainment worth checking out - show runs until the end of the month so if you're in San Jose, pick an evening to pop by San Jose Stage!

Andrew Jackson** (Johnathan Rhys Williams) and Ensemble.

**  For the record, in the production I saw, Jackson was played by understudy David Colston Corris, and he did a fantastic job.
Tags: history, musicals, politics, presidents, san jose, san jose stage, theatre

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