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September 9, 2010

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‘Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson’ readies for Broadway

by Jesse North

Indians and politicians invaded the Playwrights Horizons Theatre on Wednesday when the cast and creative team of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson met with the press to promote their upcoming September 20 Broadway bow. The cast came armed with a medley performance of two of the show’s numbers, and writer/director Alex Timbers offered a sneak peak of what will happen when Jackson takes the stage.

Video: The cast of Bloody Bloody Andre Jackson performs “Populism, Yea Yea” and “Rock Star”

When Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson opened at the Public Theater last April, it was only supposed to run to the end of the month. However, sell-out crowds and rave reviews pushed the closing date again, and again… and again, until the show closed at the end of June. Timbers said the green light for a Broadway transfer did not come as a surprise to him. “It felt like sort of an inevitability, in that [the show] kept selling out. It felt like it was either the end or someone like Jeffrey Richards [one of Bloody’s producers] or the Public would make some sort of heroic leap of faith in the show, and that’s what happened.”

Yet just because Timbers wasn’t surprised doesn’t mean he wasn’t overwhelmed by the quick success of the first musical he’d ever written. “I took a vacation in the middle of it. I was like, I’m having a hard time literally processing this. I’ve worked on many shows, but Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is my baby. It’s been hard and I don’t know if I’m still fully there. It’s all really exciting.”

Video: Ensemble members Kate Cullen Roberts, Emily Young, and Ben Steinfeld talk about Bloody‘s sexy costumes

Timbers isn’t the only one staggered by the whirlwind of Bloody’s success. The cast has had to adjust as well. “We have a pretty short rehearsal period,” Maria Elena Ramirez said, with a weary laugh. “But we just finished doing the show at the end of June, so it’s like jumping right back into it.”

Ramirez, who plays Rachel, Jackson’s wife, has always believed in the show’s quality, but underestimated its audience appeal. “When we initially did the show, I thought it was going to appeal to a very small group of people,” Ramirez said. “What we found out when we extended was that we went beyond that. There were 50-year-old women from Long Island coming and saying how much they loved the show. That was the most surprising thing about it. We’re excited to see what a broader audience will take from the show.”

Now that Bloody is moving from the Public’s Newman Stage (299 seats) to the Bernard Jacobs Theatre (1,078 seats), Timbers has to adapt the show for a much larger and higher-paying audience. Yet he insists that Bloody is extremely similar to what audience’s saw at the Public. Timbers told of minor script changes and a refresh of about one third of the cast.

Being that the Jacobs is so much larger than the Newman at the Public, how will Donyale Werle’s audience-encompassing set translate? “One of the things people kept commenting on was how exciting the environmental design of the show was,” Timbers said. “One of the challenges with going to the Jacobs is how do we top it. So what we’ve done is we’ve put together a little factory of elves creating the chandeliers and props that go inside. And we have eight 130-feet sticks of light called VersaTubes, which are basically these LED lights that go over the audience. Tens of thousands of Christmas lights. It’s really going to be an extraordinary visual treat.”

When Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson begins previews at the Bernard Jacobs on September 20, it will be one of the more unique shows on Broadway. The show’s composer, Michael Friedman, is thrilled by the diversity Bloody is surrounded by this season. “Just looking at 45 St. Patrick Stewart is on one side of us, Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones are on the other. La Bete is across the street, as are Billy Elliot and Next to Normal. It’s a great block to be on.”

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Linda
    Sep 9 2010

    This is great, Jesse. As someone who isn’t really a fan of the show, you made me excited for it. Though can I just say that I’m disappointed that there will be only minor script changes. They changed very little between the Public lab and full production as well. I think that the rave reviews are a little bit of a curse because then they don’t feel the need to change anything, but in my opinion, the show could be a lot better.

    Reply
    • Sep 9 2010

      @Linda: I’m really glad you liked it! I totally see what you mean though about letting the reviews get to their heads. We’ll have to see how it is when it begins previews to be sure, but you’re right—if everyone’s saying you’re great, why would you feel motivated to improve? We shall see.

      Reply

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