Review: Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
After receiving what was undoubtedly the most kick-ass history lesson of my life last spring when I saw Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson at The Public Theater, I wondered how the show would handle a Broadway transfer. Even now, the emo-rock musical about America’s seventh president still has a more off-Broadway feel to me. Its humor is incredibly specific and the story verges on off-putting and offensive at times. But like its title character, this show doesn’t follow convention.
Now playing at the Bernard Jacobs Theatre, Bloody Bloody has once again opened with commitment. The show’s focused style of humor and aesthetics would not work without pure dedication, and Bloody Bloody has gone whole hog. Or rather whole horse, as one hangs upside down from the ceiling over the audience.
Walking into the home of Bloody Bloody is an instant immersion into another world. Scenic designer Donyale Werle has done stupendous work, expanding beautifully on the setting at The Public. One of the most enjoyable aspects of Bloody Bloody last spring was the all-inclusive set design, with gaudy chandeliers and Christmas lights stretching far out into the audience. Werle has adapted the themes wonderfully for the 1,000-seat Jacobs Theatre. The house is splashed in deep read and painted portraits adorn the walls all the way to the back. The Christmas lights and chandeliers have returned, hoisted high above the audience, stretching back through the mezzanine. The Jacobs Theatre looks like a ghoulish setting for a Halloween party.
Once in the theater, the audience is prepped for all the sights of Bloody Bloody. The creative team for this show is the one to beat come Tony season. Werle, lighting designer Justin Townsend, and costume designer Emily Rebholz have collaborated with such unity. Rebholz’s costumes have done the actors the service of making them look as sexy and radical as they need to portray themselves. All aspects of Bloody Bloody fit together like a puzzle.
The stage has been excellently laid for the cast, and they deliver on it. Every member of this ensemble cast shines in the right spots. Special honors go to Jeff Hiller for riotous and unique line delivery, combined with physical embellishments. Emily Young’s committed expressions, even when she’s not in the spotlight, are not to be missed, especially her droll statements. And Bryce Pinkham portrays Henry Clay with delightful dementedness that is nothing short of genius.
As the president of the hour, Benjamin Walker has done an impressive job at creating this modern mashup of this character of American history. Walker plays the 19th-century statesman as a 21st-century radical barfly. His Jackson is immature, but Walker portrays even his most brash dealings with heart. That element is what connects the show ultimately, because despite the antics and his unfocused anger, Jackson wanted to better his country. The show is able to evoke true heartbreak when Jackson realizes his supporters have turned on him for doing exactly what they asked of him, only because they couldn’t make up their minds.
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is a shockingly fresh piece of storytelling that is deserving of its Broadway real estate. Its story of political action and misguided support is one that is valuable for its hindsight of our history and eerily reminiscent of our current headlines. Bloody Bloody demonstrates that history repeats itself, and luckily, this show too is getting its encore.
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson holds a ticket lottery, beginning 90 minutes before each curtain. Winners can purchase up to two tickets each for $20.
Well Rushers, what did you think of Bloody Bloody? Did you see it at The Public? How do you think it’s changed in its Broadway transfer?