Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
|Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson|
|Productions||2008 Los Angeles
2009 Off-Broadway Concert
2011 St. Louis
2013 Outré Theatre Company, Boca Raton FL
2013 Woodlawn Theatre, San Antonio TX,
2013 Buffalo NY
|Awards||2010 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical
2010 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical
The show is a comedic Wild West rock musical about the founding of the Democratic Party. It redefines Andrew Jackson, America's seventh President, as an Emo rock star and focuses on populism, the Indian Removal Act, and his relationship with his wife Rachel.
The show opens when the cast, dressed as 19th-century American cowboys and prostitutes take the stage. They are led by Andrew Jackson. They sing about their eagerness to strip the English, Spanish, French, and, most importantly, the Native Americans, of their land in the US. Along with this, they sing of the desire to bring political power back to the public and away from the elite ("Populism Yea Yea").
Jackson's childhood is shown in the Tennessee hills during the late 18th century. His family and the local shoe cobbler die of cholera and in Indian attacks. This leads him to join the military, where he is imprisoned by the British. Jackson begins to express his disdain for the US government’s lack of involvement with the people of the frontier and how he wishes someone would stand up to them ("I'm Not That Guy").
Jackson is then shown as a young adult, regaling his short meeting with George Washington to local tavern goers. He is interrupted and attacked by several Spaniards. Jackson defeats them, but is injured in the process. A woman named Rachel helps him to recover from his injuries. They fall in love during his recovery and eventually marry, though Rachel is not yet divorced from her current husband ("Illness as Metaphor"). At the end of the song, news comes that British, Indian, and Spanish forces are making advances into American territory. Meanwhile, the US government continues to do nothing to stop the attacks. Jackson realizes that if he wants this cycle to end, he must change things himself ("I'm So That Guy").
Jackson organizes a militia to remove Indian Tribes throughout the Southeast both by force and negotiation ("Ten Little Indians"). John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, John Calhoun, and Martin Van Buren are introduced as they express their concern over Jackson's unauthorized territorial expansion. Jackson rebuffs their pleas, explaining how he has driven out the French and the Spanish, while acquiring more land than Thomas Jefferson.
The Battle of New Orleans transforms Jackson into a national hero. He becomes Governor of Florida and decides to run for United States President in 1824. Although he receives the most popular and Electoral votes, he is not elected President, due to the political maneuvering in the House of Representatives. ("The Corrupt Bargain"). Jackson spends the four years after the election at his home, The Hermitage. He returns from political exile and forms the Democratic Party. During the presidential election of 1828, Andrew Jackson becomes a surprise candidate ("Rock Star"). This is grueling both publicly and personally to Jackson and his family. Rachel, feeling as if she has no private life, questions Andrew's love for her versus the American People ("The Great Compromise").
Days before the election, a Senate panel led by Clay investigates Jackson's past wrongdoings and accuses Rachel of bigamy. Despite this, Jackson ends up winning the election and becomes the 7th President of the United States. However, the accusation of his rivals, along with the stress of the election, leads to Rachel dying of grief. He vows to use both his presidency and his wife's death as a mandate to "take this country back" ("Public Life").
Once in office, Jackson is faced with a plethora of problems, ranging from the National Bank to questions about Indian relocation. Being the “People’s President,” Jackson begins polling the American populace on all executive decisions. This draws the ire of Congress and the Supreme Court. In response, Jackson consolidates Executive Power, thus making the Presidency more powerful than Congress and the Courts. At first, his exhilarating cowboy-like governing tactics are met with great enthusiasm by the average citizen. But, as the problems grow tougher, the public begins to resent being asked to make difficult decisions ("Crisis Averted").
As the American people gradually turn on him, Jackson takes stock of all that he has lost: his family, his wife, and now the love of the American public. He decides he must take ultimate responsibility for the nation's choices and declares that he alone will be the one to make the unenviable policy decisions regarding the Indians' fate ("The Saddest Song"). He summons Black Fox—an Indian Chief who organized the remaining Indian tribes into a confederation against Tennessee settlers—in order to make one last deal with the Native Americans still living in American Territories. Jackson implores Black Fox to peacefully move his people west of the Mississippi River. Black Fox asks for time to consult his tribe. But, Jackson violently snaps and decrees that federal troops will forcibly move the Indians West.
Near the end, the play reviews Jackson's legacy and the views attributed to him. Some believe he was one of America's greatest presidents, while others believe him to be an “American Hitler.” The final scene shows Jackson receiving an honorary doctorate at Harvard. He reflects upon his achievements and his questionable decisions. The show telescopes out and we get a bird's-eye view of Jackson's damning legacy and our collective culpability ("Second Nature").
Finally, the company gathers to sing "The Hunters of Kentucky," before taking their bows.
- World premiere
Developed by New York-based experimental company Les Freres Corbusier, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson had workshop productions in August 2006 at the Williamstown Theatre Festival and in May 2007 at the New 42nd Street Studios, New York. It premiered in January 2008 in Culver City at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, produced by Center Theatre Group. The cast included Sebastian Arcelus, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Kevin Del Aguila, Darren Goldstein, Greg Hildreth, Jeff Hiller, Adam O'Byrne, Maria Elena Ramirez, Kate Roberts, Jeanine Serralles, Ben Steinfeld, Robbie Sublett, Ian Unterman, and Ben Walker. Robert Brill was the set designer, Jeff Croiter the lighting designer, Emily Rebholz the costume designer, Bart Fasbender the sound designer, and Jacob Pinholster the video designer. Kelly Devine was the choreographer and Gabriel Kahane the music director.
- New York premiere
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson opened in May 2009 at The Public Theater in New York in a concert version, and returned to run from March 23 (previews) to June 27, 2010. The cast included River Alexander, David Axelrod, James Barry, Darren Goldstein, Greg Hildreth, Jeff Hiller, Lisa Joyce, Lucas Near-Verbrugghe, Bryce Pinkham, Maria Elena Ramirez, Kate Roberts, Ben Steinfeld, Ben Walker, and Colleen Werthmann. Scenic design was by Donyale Werle, lighting design by Justin Townsend, costume design by Emily Rebholz, and sound design by Bart Fasbender. Danny Mefford was the choreographer and Justin Levine was the music director.
- Broadway Premiere
The show premiered on Broadway at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, with previews starting on September 21, 2010 and opening night October 13, 2010. Many of the cast from the off-Broadway production reprised their roles, including Benjamin Walker in the title role, Maria Elena Ramirez, Jeff Hiller and Lucas Near-Verbrugghe. Despite positive reviews and early Tony buzz, the musical closed on January 2, 2011, after 120 performances due to poor attendance.
Critics blamed the poor economy during the show's run and its unorthodox story and presentation for the show's failure to build popularity. The show, which cost $4.5 million, "will close at a loss," according to The New York Times.
- Further Productions
The first production of the show after its New York run was a non-Equity performance at the University School of Nashville in November, 2011. The performance was met with great enthusiasm from the Nashville community and long-time supporters of Andrew Jackson. The production was directed by Catherine Coke with music direction by Ginger Newman and choreography by Abigayle Horrell. The cast included Sam Douglas as Andrew Jackson, Abigayle Horrell as Rachel Jackson, and Forest Miller as the bandleader. The five-show run was met with great praise by local theater critics. It was also done in a dramatic reading format by the Outré Theatre Company in September 20-22,2013 with 3 runs and was directed by Skye Whitcomb. The show was also performed in Buffalo NY by the American Repertory Theater of Western New York, September 19th-October 12th. The show had 12 runs. Directed by Jeffery Coyle and the band is led by Billy Horn of Billy Draws Two.
- Populism, Yea, Yea! – Company
- I’m Not That Guy – Andrew Jackson
- Illness As Metaphor – Andrew Jackson, Rachel, Monroe, & Van Buren
- I’m So That Guy – Andrew Jackson & Company
- Ten Little Indians – Female Soloist & Female Ensemble
- The Corrupt Bargain – Female Ensemble (Toula, Elizabeth, & Naomi), John C. Calhoun, John Quincy Adams, & Henry Clay
- Rock Star – Martin Van Buren, Andrew Jackson, & Company
- The Great Compromise – Rachel, Van Buren, & Monroe
- Public Life – Andrew Jackson & Company
- Crisis Averted – Jackson, Van Buren, & Company
- The Saddest Song – Andrew Jackson, Monroe, Black Fox, and Company
- Second Nature – Male Soloist
- The Hunters of Kentucky – Company
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson received mostly positive reviews. The New York Daily News called it "Bloody entertaining", calling Benjamin Walker "magnetic and energetic" and applauding the show for its lightweight and silly atmosphere. The New York Times noted that "there is no show in town that more astutely reflects the state of this nation than Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson." However, the Hollywood Reporter criticized the play for its immaturity, remarking that "although the show attempts at times to delve into Jackson's complex personality and the corruption that marred his presidency, it does so with the sort of snarky silliness that mars the worst Saturday Night Live' sketches," and calling the portrayals of Martin Van Buren, Henry Clay, and John C. Calhoun "rendered with all the subtlety of a vaudeville routine."
Awards and nominations
- 2010 Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical (winner, tie)
- 2010 Outstanding Music (nomination)
- 2010 Outstanding Book of a Musical (winner)
- " 'Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson' production history" lesfreres.org, retrieved August 20, 2010
- " 'Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson' listing Center Theatre Group, retrieved August 20, 2010
- Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, 2010 publictheater.org, retrieved March 12, 2010
- Brantley, Ben. Theater Review: 'Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson' The New York Times, May 18, 2009
- Hetrick, Adam. Emo Rock Musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson Opens at the Public Theater April 6" playbill.com, April 6, 2010
- Hetrick, Adam. "Broadway Run of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson Will Include Original Cast Members" playbill.com, August 20, 2010
- Hetrick, Adam."'Bloo dy Bloody Andrew Jackson' Ends Broadway Term Jan. 2" playbill.com, January 2, 2011
- Healy, Patrick."'Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson’ to Close The New York Times, December 1, 2010
-  The New York Daily News
-  The New York Times
-  The Hollywood Reporter
- Gans, Andrew."2011 Tony Nominations Announced; Book of Mormon Earns 14 Nominations" playbill.com, May 3, 2011
- Gans, Andrew."Memphis, La Cage, Zeta-Jones, Finneran and More Are Outer Critics Circle Award Winners" playbill.com, May 17, 2010
- Gans, Andrew."Red, Memphis, Bridge, Fences and La Cage Win Drama Desk Awards" playbill.com, May 23, 2010