Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson
Presented by The Umbrella Mainstage
Written by Alex Timbers
Music & Lyrics by Michael Friedman
Directed by James Tallach
Music Directed by Maria Duaime Robinson
Choreography by Lara Finn
Fight Choreography by Micah Greene
Review by Kitty Drexel
Disclosure: I have worked with both directors James Tallach, Maria Duaime Robinson, and a cast member or two. This review is tempered to reflect this.
(Concord) History favors old, White dudes. Heck, old, White dudes are favored now. If Green Day had collaborated on an historical punk musical with Bill Clinton, Lindsay Lohan and George Michael, chances are they would have written Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson (let us all say a silent prayer for Clinton’s potential saxophone career). And it would be a huge hit. Fans of American Idiot the musical will appreciate the music of BBAJ. They will also appreciate the snarky treatment of a politician who purported to be the People’s President but, after all is said and done, was only in it for himself. History has repeated itself and punk happens to be the medium for this particular telling. Speakeasy Stage Co produced BBAJ in 2012. Theirs was a more serious production with a higher budget and a frickin’ sweet sound system, but it was not better. It was different. Lovers of the musical will appreciate Umbrella’s production just as much. The foundations remain the same: the music is still extremely catchy and the script is hilarious. The differences are in the performances of the players.
Gene Dante as Andrew Jackson is the glam punk personification of a political rock star. He’s a tenor Eddie Izzard in ass-less chaps* and a white button down. Dante’s performance is electric. He dominates the stage and, although this should be an absolute positive, it has its drawbacks. Since Dante rules the stage like a dictator, the rest of the cast can’t compete. His co-actors give the stage even at moments when they should be claiming it. If Dante is on stage during a solo (and he often is) then he upstages his colleagues. Rather than suggest that Dante be more democratic with his presence, the cast must up their game. Dante is famous for being a powerhouse. You can’t ask a powerhouse to tone it down. It’s not gonna happen. So, if you can’t beat him; join him.
Shana Dirik plays the fangurl, nerd Storyteller/Tour Guide. Her energy almost catches up with Dante’s. Almost. She is a bright beam of sincere happiness in a show that tries to make genocide fun. Her portrayal of the beaten, bruised but joyful narrator is the voice of historical reason. She’s a joy to watch even as her ass is getting kicked.
The vocals of the cast are pushed and not together. This is not the fault of the band or MD but of the person manning the sound booth. The audience loses much of the music and all of the harmonies because the cast can’t hear themselves or the band. The cast wasn’t mixed properly until Act II – that’s an act too late.
Andrew Jackson was a supreme dick to his non-White constituents. (He was from Florida; are we surprised that he had such wacky definitions of justice?) While BBAJ is a satire of his presidency, it is based on truth. This is something to keep in mind while the cast and crew rock out of the Industrial Americana chic set. Rock stars aren’t alluring because we, the plebes, can be just like them. They are alluring because we will never be like them. Let’s hope none of our politicians are ever again like Andrew Jackson.
* All chaps are ass-less.