‘A bloody good time’ – Pittsburgh Playhouse Conservatory Company’s BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON

Jackson-web-4 Jackson-web-7 Jackson-web-12 AndrewJackson
production photos by Jeff Swensen.

Don’t know much about history? Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman give those dull, old American History books a Spring Awakening, adding sass and verve to those dry, dusty tomes. The result is “Bloody BloodyAndrew Jackson” a rock musical about Old Hickory, America’s seventh president, Andrew Jackson. Most people know Jackson from the twenty dollar bill, but the president has a sordid and blood-soaked biography, rife for theatrical adaptation. A musical might not be the first choice for a drama, but it’s a damn good one. This is a rock comic odyssey with the highest body count of any comedy that has ever gone before.

The musical alleges that Jackson puts the party in Democratic Party, putting the ass front in center as the party’s symbol. It’s a fractured fairy tale of an American president, peppered with some historical facts and pithy bon mots. Republicans and Democrats are equally skewered, and the show heaps on a large portion of liberal guilt. The near-genocide of the 500 Nations of Native Americans rests squarely on the broad shoulders of the seventh president (re: the Trail of Tears).

The story, hilariously narrated by the Storyteller (Caitlin Bower), starts off with Jackson’s rough and tumble upbringing as a frontiersman in the wilds of Tennessee, back before there was a 711 on every corner. Jackson endures a horrific series of deaths and strikes out on his own at the ripe old age of thirteen. He quickly rises through the ranks of the army. Famous battles flash by as if we’re watching Andrew Jackson’s E True Hollywood story. We hit all the high points, his famous battles, the introduction of Rachel Donelson Robards (a terrific Brittany Dorazio), his soon-to-be-wife, the adoption of his Native American child, Lyncoya (Dom Masciola), etc. The first act culminates in Jackson’s victory lap around the White House.

The show makes comical uses of anachronisms, and there’s a plethora of them. They even take a few swipes at the iPad, literally and figuratively.

“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” is energetic and fun. The show is not for sticklers of the finer points of American History. It’s also not for prudes (those guys and gals swear like sailors on shore leave).

Reed Worth plays Andrew Jackson with rock star swagger. He captures the arrogance, the egotism and rare moments of vulnerability. There is a lot of action in this Jackson, and Worth plays it big and enthusiastically.

Michael Montgomery’s costumes are less than historically accurate, but wildly original and exciting. But it’s mostly about those tight blue jeans, daringly worn by Worth and the other the men and women in the cast.

There were some great turns by Martin Van Buren (Conner Gillooly) John Quincy Adams (Patrick Steven Bovo), Henry Clay (Luke Halferty), James Monroe (Wood Van Meter) and John Calhoun (Joe Godley), and a poignant moment with Black Fox (Tal Kroser).

The show has a fantastic ensemble of actors, singers and musicians and director Michael McKelvey garners some top-notch performances out of them. He and choreographer/assistant director Cassidy Adkins keep things (and the cast) moving. Luke Minx, John Rohlf, Kristen Hoover and the rest of the band rock the house.

If you’re looking for a show about sex, democracy and rock & roll (and who isn’t?) catch “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.” It’s a bloody, bloody good time.

You can see the cock-eyed version of history unfold at the Conservatory Theater Company’s production of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” at the Rockwell Theatre, inside the Pittsburgh Playhouse, 222 Craft Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213.

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Mike Buzzelli

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