Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson opened to rave reviews Off-Broadway at The Public Theatre in New York City in March and ran through June 2010. Three months later, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson transferred to Broadway and became the first musical to open the 2010-11 Broadway season.
And, I wonder if it should have just stayed Off-Broadway.
The quirky premise of this short 1-act musical parodies Andrew Jackson’s life, marriage, populism and The Indian Removal Act all under the guise that Jackson is an emo-rock star. Some guy-liner and tight pants seemed to be the only “emo” thing about the piece.
The music, written by Broadway newcomer Michael Friedman, was a cross between folk, rock, camp-fire and musical theatre – not really true emo. To tout the show as an emo-rock musical and not really have any emo-rock music in it was a bit jarring. Emo music is categorized as expressive, confessional-type lyrics with soaring melodies that usually is in verse/chorus form. The vocals are usually the focus of the music while the guitars, bass and drum are in the background (think of bands like: Dashboard Confessionals, Fall Out Boy! or Jimmy Eat World). Some of the music was catchy and fun (and it will probably grow on me as I listen to the cast recording), but overall it didn’t propel the story forward or make me feel like I was a at an emo-rock concert – two things I desperately wanted it to do.
The whole show felt like it was glorified skit around a camp fire. The political nature of the script was interesting and very smart but it didn’t engage me enough to care at the end of the show. It seemed forced and a bit phony.
I just kept thinking, “Is this seriously a Broadway musical?” It had more “WTF” moments than any other show I’ve ever seen.
Benjamin Walker (Andrew Jackson) is hugely talented, but the surrounding cast seemed amateurish at best. The material didn’t let the cast shine. When the cast went to bow, the audience gently clapped while only a handful stood. It was one of the least enthusiastic curtain calls I’ve ever seen on Broadway.
Obviously, the critics and the sell-out audiences during it’s initial Off-Broadway run saw something in this piece; it’s an extremely creative and inventive experimental theatre. I just think it should have stayed Off-Broadway. It should be playing in a very intimate theatre where you can feel like you are a part of the show and not an idle observer from the back row of the orchestra.
Maybe, with different expectations and a better seat, I might have enjoyed Broadway’s newest musical.