History is treated with a huge dose of angst and irony in the Public’s musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson with music and lyrics by Michael Friedman and book by Alex Timbers.
In a good way. Trust me.
Because as much as I entered the Newman theater rather skeptical of the opulent-colonial-meets-rock-video décor, with animal heads and carcasses strewn with beads, red lighting, and other wrecked touches, I surprised even myself in how gleefully the history nerd in me delighted in the sarcastic treatment of one of our presidential icons. And in history alone, there’s a lot of material here: the trail of tears, bigamy, accusations of genocide, not to mention winning the populist vote only to be shut down by congress in the first presidential race he attempted. But add to that portrayal of Jackson in a new light, not unlike the way “The Tudors” have reinvented Henry VII, along with a rock/emo score incredibly reminiscent of another musical with microphones pulled from holsters at opportune moments that was on Broadway not too long ago.
And even with its obvious influences, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson stands on its own two feet, a deliciously irreverent portrait of history in general and the legacy people leave behind. Beneath the gags, the sardonic humor, and portrayal of bumbling politicians, there is a lot of emotional truth, a stark reality to the persona that Jackson created through the sheer force of his anger and selfishness. One of the most gratifying moments for me was when Rachel, Jackson’s wife, tells Andrew, who asks why he can’t have a private life with her and the public fame of the presidency, that it’s because he’s “a grown up.” The fact of the story is inescapable – regardless of the glamour or the hype – none of Jackson’s glory came cheaply or peacefully. And the complexity of this story is something that will touch you at times throughout the show, but will also bring you a lot of joy in the twisting of those questions into an absurd, hilariously rebellious musical appeal.
I highly suggest buying tickets and seeing this production, which can be done here. With an amazing cast, band, and production values, this is something to be seen.
Edit: Just a teaser, really, but something to give you an idea of what you'd be in for: