One wouldn't expect there to be a musical about Andrew Jackson, the Populist, Indian-killing 7th president of the U.S. Let alone a musical that tells Jackson's story with humor, modern language and a thrilling punk rock score. Say hello to "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson," which closes tonight at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.
Written and directed by Alex Timbers, composed by Michael Friedman and filled with a young and enthusiastic cast, this high-energy show gives a modern, humorous and sometimes humbling view of the notorious 7th president. The score weaves seamlessly through the narrative in a way reminiscent of surprise-hit Broadway rock musicals "Rent" and "Spring Awakening." BBAJ is already set to continue on a similar path.
Although the creative team freely mixed modern clothing and speech with nineteenth-century costumes and concepts, one still feels completely enveloped into the world of Jackson.
For some younger viewers, this will probably be *because* of the modern music and speech, which makes everything a bit more accessible. Robert Brill's warm Wild West barroom set welcomes you to the nineteenth century as you walk into the theatre, along with performer Gabriel Kahane onstage playing a ragtime tune that reminds me of Disneyland and sounds suspiciously like "My Name is Jonas" by Weezer. Oddly enough, my only problem with the show (aside from a rather sudden and disquieting ending) is the fact that there isn't *enough* music, although the songs that are there work very well.
Benjamin Walker is a true punk rock hero and commands the stage as the obnoxious and intriguing Jackson, doing it all dressed in tight clothes, combat boots, and utility belt complete with gun and microphone. And even amid all the humor and punk rock and silliness, some excellent points are brought up that resonate rather loudly in our own society ("do you really want the American people running their own country?") A nice surprise was seeing John Krasinski from "The Office" in attendance. It turns out he saw BBAJ's workshops in New York and got to know Timbers and Friedman as the show took its current form and made its way to Los Angeles. When I spoke to him in the lobby, he had nothing but praise for the show.
I've seen many shows from minuscule community theaters to full-scale Broadway houses, but never anything so fresh and enjoyable in my hometown. Relatively few Angelenos go to the theater except for big hits like Wicked, but we're attracted by new and slightly odd concepts. What could be more intriguing than a rock musical about a young, sexy former President? While it's not perfect, I would have thought I was seeing an Off-Broadway musical with a cult following. I'm hoping that Friedman and Timbers are able to take this work of art to NYC.