Former President Jackson goes bloody crazy
“I’m Andrew Jackson, I’m your president, let’s blow the roof off!” (Cue intense rock music.)
Take one glance at a musical’s poster promising “sex, democracy amd rock and roll,” and you instantly know this play doesn’t take itself too seriously. The Pittsburgh Playhouse production of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, an unorthodox play that briefly ran on Broadway, premiered at the Point Park University’s Rockwell Theatre on Friday.
The idea behind the musical is as far-fetched as it gets. The musical re-imagines seventh president Andrew Jackson as an emo rock star. The plot loosely follows Jackson’s rise to the presidency, with plenty of live rock solos and over-the-top dance acts in between. However, the musical is not for the faint of heart or for younger audiences. Every scene is chock full of swearing, sexual innuendos, and concert-level lighting. Some jokes rely heavily on racial stereotype as well. For those who aren’t overly sensitive to such elements, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is a roller coaster of a musical full of energy.
The play features a huge cast of characters. It’s easy to forget who’s who, especially if you lack a basic historical understanding of Andrew Jackson’s life. There are two prominent characters that stand out the most — Andrew Jackson himself (Reed Worth) and his wife Rachel Donelson (Brittany Dorazio). Both have strong singing voices that suit hard rock and emotion-laden moments. Most of the actors are local theatre students from Point Park University with the exception of seventh grader Dom Masciola, who plays Jackson’s adopted son Lyncoya.
A historically accurate timeline of Jackson’s life is included in each playbook, which lets the audience compare what they see on stage against the actual events. Jokes are taken to the extreme, with varying results. For instance, when Jackson swears vengeance on the Native Americans for killing his family, a crew of scantily clad men dressed in stereotypical garb dance to the “Sugar Plum Fairy” song. In another case, Jackson and Rachel cover each other with blood in some strange ritual of professing their love for each other.
Although it is obvious that the play takes itself very lightly and that these moments are for quick laughs, such moments could be unpopular with the wrong crowd. But here and there, tasteful history jokes are mixed in with pop culture references. Jackson uses an iPad for Indian treaties, complete with Siri. Jackson’s political campaign is turned into a rock tour, featuring the band “Andrew Jackson and the Populists.” At one point, Jackson unforgettably says to Rachel, “Sometimes when I’m on the battlefield suffering from dysentery and diarrhea, I think of you” in order to prove his love to her.
There are ample jokes poking fun at slavery, diseases, and the practice of bleeding out. The play could benefit from having more of these moments, as they are entertaining for both history fans and the general audience.
The second half of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson — which focuses on Jackson’s struggles as the President — is considerably less crazy than the first. The jokes aren’t as offensive, and character struggles and moral issues become the focus, leading to a surprisingly somber ending to the play.
The set itself is impressive, accurately resembling a concert bar. But the set can sometimes distract from moments of the play that are supposed to occur at a battlefield since the set is never changed until the second half of the play. Lighting is also notably well done for the small production. At exciting moments, colored lights flash as a fog machine churns along. However, minor microphone issues did interfere with the overall flow of songs and dramatic plot points.
For the right crowd, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is an exciting musical sensation that’s rough around the edges. But it could easily offend, so those with strong opinions about the subject matter should steer clear. The play will be showing until March 2. Tickets start at $18 or $20, depending on the day of the performance.