Review by Tulis McCall
(28 Oct 2010)
Politics is a show for people who can’t afford the theatre. And it will never run out of material. A lot has changed since this musical opened at the Public Theatre last spring. And this show has changed along with the times, but not so much that it lost its punch. For starters, the F-bomb is not the first thing out of Andrew Jackson’s mouth. And as the play/musical goes along it is clear that the blue pencil has been applied to sharpen and focus the show’s direction. Just as the set by Donyale Werle has taken over the Jacobs theatre, obliterating the dividing line between actors and audience, so too the book of this show has opened its doors to the Tea Party.
Andrew Jackson was self centered, arrogant and daring. When given a choice he responds, “Why can’t I have both?” “Because,’ he is told, “you are an adult.” This was not news he liked to hear.
According to this production, Jackson’s fight against the various Native Americans was capricious and unilateral. He made and broke treaties at will and nearly single handedly was responsible for the Trail of Tears. In doing so he claimed most of the Southeast for the white folk, and although they didn’t like his manner, they sure liked his results. He colored outside the lines of society. He adopted a Creek boy orphaned in one of his battles. He married a woman who was already married, thus becoming our first presidential Bigamist. Among the likes of Calhoun, Monroe and Van Buren he really is a rock star.
In this production the emphasis shifts from Jackson’s background to his run for office, which reflects the man. Once in office his efforts to do what the people want result in his doing nothing because no one can make up their minds. Tours of the White House end up like slow car wrecks. Groupies find their way out as fast as they found their way in. This company makes leaps of logic that defy gravity and make sense at the same time. As Jackson spins out of control he clings viciously to his belief that he is always in control and doing what is best for the country.
The cast rocks its way from Frontier to Democracy. They are more like really smart kids left alone in a basement who not only come up with a skit for the old folks – they come up with a new way of life. These are renegades with rhythm.
Once again the casting directors seem to have come up short on the non-white department. As in non-white actors are, like, not there. It is an astonishing oversight, considering the fact that Jackson’s treatment of slaves and Native Americans is at the center of the tale. “All I wanted was a house with a fence and some kids and some toys and some slaves,” sighs Jackson’s wife. It is after all a question of putting your money where your mouth is.
Still it is a look at history that will bring people into the theatre. Whether it makes them take a deeper look is not certain. Judging by the giggles coming from the row in back of me during the more serious moments of the show I would say the jury is still out on regarding the future of our land.
"A runaway downtown hit at the Public Theater last spring, “Bloody Bloody” is both smarter and cruder than your average Broadway fare."
Charles Isherwood for New York Times
"If you're looking for a tidy and traditional show, or an irony-free slice of history, this new take on Old Hickory isn't it. But for something lightweight, fresh and fun, "Andrew Jackson" is worth the Benjamins."
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News
"Never fails to entertain: It stays faithful to the people's president by making him a crowd-pleaser."
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post
"Rattles around in a big Broadway house for which it is not grown-up enough."
John Simon for Bloomberg
"Irreverent wit, in-your-face satire, and lots of sweaty sex appeal."
David Sheward for Back Stage
"A wildly entertaining ride – and a sobering one"
Robert Feldberg for The Record
"It is one very cheeky new show that gives the finger to old-school expectations about what a Broadway attraction should be."
Michael Summers for Newsroom Jersey
"Soars along like a carnival ride."
Steven Suskin for Variety