The political scene is running red as we inch on up to election eve. So the Boston Premiere of BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON at SpeakEasy Stage Company is timely– a rock musical about our rabble-rousing, Indian killing, Spanish crushing, king of the wild frontier, founder of the democratic party, and our 7th President. That he finds expression here as a rock star and voice of the people who literally takes charge of his own narrative– is more appropos than gimmicky. Jackson, by all accounts was a wild man.
The music and lyrics– by acclaimed composer/lyricist and Obie Award winner Michael Friedman– are witty, raw, and hilarious. But not only is the show wholly entertaining, it also ends up being about something– namely how hard it is to govern, how hard it is to stick to your guns– let alone where to point them, and how difficult it is to size up an orphaned, carousing bigamist and self-made man, who became a war hero and ultimately President of the United States. The show is ironic enough to revel in the contradictions, without being so cool, it distances itself from the troubling implications.
Written by Tony Award-nominated director Alex Timbers, and cleverly directed by Paul Melone, the show begins as a rollicking good time with onstage band, and a large and able ensemble led by Gus Curry as the “really tight jeans”-wearing populist prez-to-be who rises from the west (audience stage left)and pits himself against the be-wigged eastern elite of Washington DC (audience stage right). As he lays out his platform, no joke is too obvious (“Would you like to see my stimulus package?” he asks–his crotch front and center.)
But this bawdy playfulness ultimately gives way to more thoughtful questions about the complexity of the guy. Was he a visionary statesman “who put the ‘man’ in Manifest Destiny,” or an ethnic cleansing, American Hitler who wiped out native populations, even as he cared for an adopted Creek Indian boy.
This is one rockin’ history class. Check out BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON at SpeakEasy Stage Company through November 17. By that time the current election bloodbath will be over, but the fall-out just might be the stuff of rock musicals to come.