Now that the Tony awards have been handed out to some of the worst crap ever produced on Broadway (middlebrow Memphis as Best Musical? Puh-leese!), can we talk about the show that really is the best original musical of the season? That would be Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, written and directed by Alex Timbers with music and lyrics by Michael Friedman. This is not your history teacher’s view of the seventh President of the United States (elected in 1829). But then again this knockout of a show isn’t the traditional view of anything. It uses its emo-punk score to put the hormones back into history.
The opening number, “Populism, Yea, Yea!,” sets the tone just like “America, Fuck Yeah” did for Team America: World Police from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Jackson’s scandalous history as a frontier kid, brutal soldier, husband to a woman who was still married and racist Indian fighter are all grist for this wild, surreal ride of a show.
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson will finish up its run at Manhattan’s Public Theater on June 27th, with (fingers crossed) a Broadway run in its future. One sticking point depends on the availability of the show’s dynamo of a star Benjamin Walker, who was confirmed this week to do an X-Men movie. Walker plays the hot-headed and hot-blooded Jackson with such a rock-star hard-on that you don’t want to miss him. “You’re so hot,” he tells the audience at the top of the show, “I want to put it in you.”
Luckily, you can hear Walker’s hormonal take on Bloody Andrew on the original cast album, out soon on the Sh-K-Boom & Ghostlight Records label (Kurt Deutsch and Dean Sharenow produced the hell out of it). These songs show you what a musical can do when you plug in a livewire and use the past to illustrate how we got so fucked-up in the present. To hear Jackson sing, “I’m Not That Guy” and then “I’m So That Guy” is a lesson in political compromise as timely as today’s headlines. Andrew and his wife cut each other and puke to feel something. Just give a listen to “Illness As Metaphor” (can’t wait till the Glee cast tackles that one).
Timbers (artistic director of Les Freres Corbusier) and Friedman (house composer of The Civilians ) are social satirists working at a creative fever pitch. And boy do we need them now. My advice is: zap this killer score into your iPod and let it blow your mind. If Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson wants to start a revolution in musical theater, count me in.