7 Apr 2010
Review by Tulis McCall
Isn’t this one a breath of fresh air! Intelligent, funny, critical, a bit shocking, with music that doesn’t blow you out of your seats.
This is a rock musical that takes as its story Andrew Jackson. Turns out he was not such a nice fella. Bloody he was. With their Saturday Night Live – except way tougher on its subjects – approach Andrew Jackson comes off as arrogant and daring. Apparently that is just what the doctor ordered when he ran for the presidency for a second time. The first time he ran there was a tie between him and Henry Clay. Congress appointed Adams instead. Oops. Hell hath no fury like a politician denied, eh?
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 the battle of 1913. He married a woman who was already married, thus becoming our first presidential Bigamist.
Once he figured out that he was not going to fit in as a politician, he pretty much made up his own rules. Among the likes of Calhoun, Monroe and Van Buren he really is a rock star. This Andrew Jackson is fierce, petulant and reckless – everything we like in politicians. 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.
This company makes leaps of logic that defy gravity and make sense at the same time. We are swept up in the turbulence that was Andrew Jackson’s life. Part Frontier, part defender of the (white) people. Always loud and messy.
The cast rocks it’s 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.
With the exception of Benjamin Walker (Andrew Jackson) everyone plays multiple roles including the musicians. They sing and strut and have a fine old time. Missing in the cast are any black or Native Americans, however, which is a fairly gross oversight considering that Alex Timbers excellent book that flashes their shabby treatment up in front of our faces through out the evening. “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. And the sound is in need of some attention. The balance between people with hand held mics and those without is jarring, not to mention surprising when everything else – including the set with no end that reaches to the rafter by Donyale Werle – is so finely tuned.
Still it is a fresh and brilliant creation. History rocks, and that is not a bad deal. Whatever it takes to make us look at where we came from is okay with me.
"Rowdy, dopey and devastatingly shrewd."
Ben Brantley for New York Times
"The right balance of irony and earnestness."
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post
"Raucous, engaging musical."
Jeremy Gerard for Bloomberg
"Rocking and roaring staging by Alex Timbers, ready to rip through your senses and political perceptions."
David Sherward for Back Stage
"A rowdy, rambunctious musical."
Michael Kuchwara for Associated Press
External links to full reviews from popular press...