Monday, October 15, 2012
Unicorn "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" review by Piddums
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson at the Unicorn is a dynamo of a show with a high energy cast, a charming score and a lot of funny moments. This goes a long way toward making up for the ham-fisted satire of the script.
Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson is a musical retelling of the life of Andrew Jackson, seventh president of the United States. Jackson is a fascinating historical figure, the first truly populist president, a man of the people. The story follows him from his early history and the death of his family, his (bigamous) marriage, his battles against the Spanish, English and Native Americans through his presidency and decision to relocate all the Native Americans from the Southern States west to Oklahoma.
Jackson is presented as a guyliner-wearing rock star. The score of the musical is heavily rock and roll influenced. The rest of the cast of 11 play numerous characters, sing songs, dance and often come onstage playing instruments. There is also a very good 5 member band, led by Cody Wyoming. The score is pleasant and fun, but nothing you haven't heard before.
Jackson himself is played by Shea Coffman, a tremendous performer at the top of his game. He jumps, screams, wails, belts and generally performs with dynamo energy. He carries the brunt of the show and comes off as a sort of venal Jethro Bodine.
The rest of the cast is also exceptional, so much so that I hate leaving anyone out in this section of mentions. Matt Rapport, Jeff Berger, Vi Tran, Sam Wright and Jacob Aaron Cullum play various characters, most notably as the scions of Washington power elite, John C. Calhoun, Martin Van Buren, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay and James Monroe, respectively. All are exceptional, Jeff Berger in particular as a foppish Van Buren who has more than a slight crush on Jackson. The women are also tremendous. Katie Karel has moving moments as Rachel Jackson. Trista Smith is funny as an ever-present narrator. And Chioma Anyanwu and Megan Herrera nearly walk off with the show playing a variety of groupies, housewives, advisers and just about anything that the plot needs.
About ten minutes in I was laughing and bouncing along with the first number, "Populism, Yea, Yea," forgetting for the moment that Team America had essentially done the same thing. By about twenty minutes in, I was saying to myself, "This is awfully dumb." It was pleasant, it was funny, it was a good time, but there were no real new ideas or concepts in the script, and much of the tone has been lifted part and parcel from numerous different productions. Hair came out about 45 years ago and that jokey, meta-theatre style of musical has been used time and time again. Isn't it about time for somebody to come up with a new idea for musical theatre? Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson seems to think it's awfully clever, and it might be for someone who hasn't seen a stage play since the 1950s.
You still want to get your tickets to see this dynamite cast. Coffman and company make a great evening out of weak material. See this, treasure them and pray for someone to write a musical worthy of their talents.