by Mary Damiano
Anyone who goes to see BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON expecting a bio-musical about our seventh president is in for a rude awakening.
The musical plays fast and loose with facts, painting Jackson as a sexy, populist rock star of politics, known for killing Indians and making a point of offending as many of what he considered the elitists of his day. Frontiersman, statesman, soldier, president—the Andrew Jackson portrayed in BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON is all that and much more.
Outré Theatre Company presented a staged concert version in 2013; now they’re back with the fully produced musical at Broward Center’s New River Abdo Room.
Director Skye Whitcomb has assembled several of the same actors as the concert two years ago. Robert Johnston returns as Andrew Jackson, as does Kaitlyn O’Neill as his beloved wife Rachel, Conor Walton as John Quincy Adams, Michael Mena as Jackson’s friend Black Fox and James Monroe, and Jennipher Murphy as The Storyteller.
The book by Alex Timbers is written as an extended skit with modern references and jokes, and dialogue that lends itself to intentionally bad acting. This goes perfectly with the rock music and lyrics byMichael Friedman, whose score is both catchy and ominous, especially on “Ten Little Indians” performed by Erica Mendez while Jackson moves several native tribes from their lands either by negotiation or force.
BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON shows how Jackson evolved from a simple country boy who fought for his country during the Revolutionary War to the man who lost the love of his life due to his own ambition. Jackson’s relationship with Rachel is at the heart of this story or any story about Jackson—his deep love for his wife humanizes him when he goes on the rampage against the Spanish or the British or the Indians or the politicians or anyone else who crosses him.
Johnston is every inch the sexy rock star—physically and vocally—that the creators envisioned when they wrote this version of Jackson. O’Neill is winsome and straight-talking as Rachel, a woman who simply wants her husband by her side. Her full silky voice elevates several songs, including “The Great Compromise”. Walton delivers another hilarious performance as the lollipop-licking, overgrown man-child John Quincy Adams. Mena’s Black Fox is intense and greatly contributes to the tension in the story.
The ensemble cast, which includes Christina Groom, Noah Levine, Jordana Forest, Geoff Short, Elvin Negron, Leo Valentine Kaplan and Rick Pena, is obviously having a great time. Whitcomb’s inventive staging includes a runway, which is often used for comic effect and to increase the intimacy between the cast and the audience. The cast soars vocally, and has fun with Sabrina Lynn Gore’s choreography. They often spill over from the stage, fanning out through the crowd and even sitting down and enjoying a drink at a table in the audience.
Kristen Long, who plays keyboards leads the band, also contributes as The Storyteller for part of the show and sings the lilting “Second Nature.”
Say what you will about Andrew Jackson—some believe him to be one of the greatest presidents we’ve had, responsible for adding more land to the country than any other, while some believe him to be a power-hungry, grudge-holding maniac responsible for genocide of Native Americans. What comes across most in this version is that Jackson was a man of contradictions. Outré Theatre Company’s production of BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON is rollicking and raucous, and definitely rocks the house.