Review of Reviews: Stage

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Kirk Douglas Theater, Los Angeles

(213) 628-2772

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This blood-soaked take on the life of America’s seventh president “probably isn’t your grandmother’s idea of a nice matinee musical,” said Charles McNulty in the Los Angeles Times. Alex Timbers’ cheeky script, which follows “Old Hickory” from his frontier youth through wartime victories to a tumultuous administration, owes less to its Broadway predecessors than to “sensibilities shaped by the topical ironies of Jon Stewart and the profane zaniness of South Park.” Michael Friedman’s rock-inflected score reeks of the strain of pop known as “emo,” in which misunderstood young men wallow in their own self-loathing. Jackson thus comes across as a sort of rock star, whose “decent looks, humble origins, and can-do savagery exert a powerful hold on the masses.” Timbers and Friedman have lots of good ideas—too many, in fact, for the overall production to make much sense. For their jokes to both discomfit and amuse, they need to be sharper, “and the saga drags as it strives impossibly for encyclopedic completeness.”

That exhaustive attention to detail suggests that this tongue-in-cheek musical harbors serious ambitions, said Paul Hodgins in the Orange County, Calif., Register. Benjamin Walker doesn’t just play Jackson on the battlefield and on the stump. We see him court his wife and watch as he’s “cheated out of” the presidency during the contested 1824 election. One genuinely affecting moment comes after he’s finally won the presidency and must oversee the tragic, forced relocation of Native American peoples. Jackson “agonizes over his decision, knowing many of his countrymen would like to see the Indians eradicated entirely.” Not everyone will agree that this account is historically accurate. But, “surprisingly, this cartoonish musical gives us a far more nuanced portrait of Jackson than standard high school history texts.”

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