Results tagged “bloody bloody andrew jackson” from Drama Queen

After all this time, I finally saw Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson again in its current run at the Public Theater. I wanted to see it again so badly I even paid for tickets--Paid. For. Tickets. Believe me, if you're a critic, that's a big deal. If you're a Philly critic, taking money away from a Philly theater and spending it, you know, *there*, it's an even bigger deal--and here are a few reasons why:
  1. I wanted to see if I thought it had a shot at a Broadway run, because sooner or later, if Broadway ignores Les Freres Corbusier, it will do so at its own peril. I just wasn't sure if this was the show to take them there.
  2. I wanted to see if this musical that resonated so deeply during W's tenure would have the same cathartic punch under Obama.
  3. I wanted to see if it lived up to my own hype. After all, I've devoted a lot of blog space to one show I saw almost three years ago. (Below: BBAJ, circa 2008)
BBAJ08.jpgHere's what I concluded:
  1. No, I do not think this is the show that will take the boys and their swaggering Jackson, Ben Walker, to Broadway. But it's a lot of fun, and Director/playwright Alex Timbers is a veritable Wallenda when it comes to walking the line between wide-eyed and winking. BBAJ itself rests between Schoolhouse Rock and Drunk History, and doesn't even make you pick a side; enjoy them both, AND walk away with a lesson. That's value for your entertainment dollar. Composer Michael Friedman's musical moments--because they're not whole songs, although they are insanely catchy verses--burst furiously through the script much like the emotions of a bratty adolescent, which is appropriate, considering Timbers' Jackson is portrayed as a wrist-cutting emo rock star. But it's still too messy, and though scenes such as the one in which an actress snarls out a tune about "10 Little Indians" who meet an untimely end, are better integrated this time (at L.A.'s Kirk Douglas Theatre, the song stopped the show dead; here, it's set against a parade of soon-to-be-broken treaties), I just don't think it can--or should--clean up all that well. Oskar Eustis did the right thing by bringing it back for a mainstage run, and that's a pretty great legacy, well deserved. It's not the game-changer I thought it could be, but I'll tell you this much, if I weren't a theater critic, I'd gladly be an investor in whatever project LFC take on next, because I have no doubt a game-changer will emerge from BBAJ's raw material and LFC's momentum.
  2. No, it's not the same under Obama, although you can't fault Timbers for trying. Imagine, if you can bring yourself to do so, that it's early 2008, George W. Bush is deep into his second term as president, post-Katrina FEMA trailers are exhaling formaldehyde, the Iraq war is still racking up American casualties, and onto the stage struts Andrew Jackson, whining, drinking, indulging his expansionist fantasies, ignoring the collateral damage, singing populism's praises. The parallels are as powerful as your frustrations, and you are grateful to see them both portrayed onstage in this way--those who don't know history are condemned to repeat it, etc. Now it's 2010, and though yes, Obama was swept into the presidency on a wave of popular support, his election was a reaction to Bush's populism, just as Bush's populism was a reaction to Clinton's perceived chardonnay-drinking, Volvo-driving elitism (remember that?). It's just not the same, and aiming Jackson at Obama only serves to untie the show from its moorings. I get it, the people's desire for a hero to swoop in, make decisions and save the country is timeless. But BBAJ's genius lay in the way it equated the mass appeal of bratty, insolent, obdurate Jackson with, well, that of bratty, insolent, obdurate Bush. Now, as a parallel to the Obama presidency, it sends a disappointing mixed message--disappointing especially because its original message was so forceful and dead on (AJ would have wanted it that way!), while the Botox applied to this version seems more like a hedged bet. Maybe if we ended up with a McCain/Palin regime and the show stuck to its roots, it would have blown up Broadway. But honestly, I'm glad we didn't have to find out. 
Yes, it lives up to my hype, but more for what it signals than for what it delivers. BBAJ is musical theater with ADHD. Unmedicated ADHD. And btw, that's a compliment. It's exciting, honest, impulsive, sexy, smart, silly. It's imperfect, but also, sometimes it's perfect. If Broadway musicals were half as unpredictable and thrilling as this one, I might even crack open my wallet and head up the turnpike more often. That is, as long as there's nothing too exciting happening here in Philly. 
April 4, 2010 8:25 PM |
I'm not going to go on and on about how much I love Les Freres Corbusier anymore, or talk about how Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is about to open on the Public Theatre's mainstage, or even about how excited I am that I got tickets to see it, since I was shut out when it appeared during the Public's LAB series a few months ago. 

I don't have to say any of those things because Les Freres Corbusier found someone who's even more excited than me about the show's return.

And p.s., I'm not saying this has anything to do with BBAJ composer Michael Friedman's involvement in The Civilians' new porn musical, but I dunno, it's maybe influenced by all that research.


March 4, 2010 12:55 PM | | Comments (0)

This week I'm macking on: Rock of Ages, the Off-Broadway to Broadway musical opening April 7 at the Brooks Atkinson Theater. Rock of Ages stars American Idol reject Constantine Maroulis, is directed by Kristin Hanggi, the woman responsible for The Pussycat Dolls Live at the Roxy, and features some of the worst couples-skate-ready, parachute-pants-wearing, flaming-kamikaze-drinking music to come out of the '80s. The cheese is so pungent in this jukebox musical (which somehow doesn't include Foreigner's "Jukebox Hero," but makes amends with the inclusion of their "Waiting for a Girl Like You" and "I Want to Know What Love Is") you can probably smell it all the way down the block--that is, if it hasn't been set aflame by all the commingled hair mousse and Aqua Net fumes.

But that's not why I'm macking on it. In fact, I still have some lingering PTSD from that whole era. Once upon a time, I begged a friend to see The Cure with me and she agreed on the condition that I attend a Motley Crue/Whitesnake concert with her. Suffice it to say it wasn't exactly a fair trade, since Ticketmaster never mentioned that my innocence was included in the ticket price.

Anyway, where I'm going with this is that it's not so much Rock of Ages' retro content that rocks my world, or that it was choreographed by Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson choreographer Kelly Devine, or even that before the curtain rose on a single Broadway preview--nay, while it was still in its Off-Broadway infancy--RoA was picked up by New Line Cinema for a film adaptation. No, I'm macking on the way whomever runs the @RockofAges Twitter handle just plain gets how to do it. Sure, they throw in the occasional promotional plug, but it's hidden among trivia ("Who sang, 'she goes down slow like a shot of gin/she's got an angel's face and a devil's grin?'" If you know the answer withut clicking, this is definitely the show for you), related links (SNL's Bon Jovi opposite tribute band), metalhead news ("Guns N' Roses is proud to announce that DJ Ashba has joined the band for an upcoming tour"), contests, and daily interaction with their thousand or so followers. On the show's website there's even an integrated Rock of Ages Twitter feed featuring fan tweets alongside the official ones. They've nailed the right tone, and are carefully, gently cultivating their audience. Every theater company that limits their public internet engagement to posting monthly two-for-one ticket offers and opening-week links to reviews (not that there's anything wrong with that) should start re-evaluating their approach, like, yesterday.  

This week I'm hating on: blizzards. I was going to go see some theater around Denver Wednesday and Thursday nights, but am instead stuck a mile above the mile high city, with an icy mountain pass between myself and that big city's bright lights. Apparently, due to the whiteout, even Curious Theatre Company cancelled tonight's performance of Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice, so you know I'm not just slacking. I'll be back in August though, and barring any late-summer snowstorms (Not even kidding; it's cold up here!) promise to make up for the miss.

And hey, happy World Theatre Day. Tell everyone you know that in the spirit of international cooperation, it's their duty to go see a play or two tonight. You, of course, already knew that, and if you did anything special to commemorate the event, let's hear about it.  

March 26, 2009 11:30 PM | | Comments (5)
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This week I'm macking on: The return of the rock-star president. And no, not that one. 

Ok, screw it, I'm just going to say this quickly and get it out of the way. Les Freres Corbusier is re-mounting their emo-musical-light-show-fanboy-concert Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson in May as part of the Public Theater's Public LAB season. Even better, tickets will be $10. I hope they sell CDs, and I hope producers here in Philly go see it and bring it home for me, and since I'm starting to feel like LFC's very own Mel, that's all I'm going to say on the subject. For now.

This week I'm hating on: Haters. If anyone--for example, these Fox News twits--expected Jay-Z and Young Jeezy to button up and settle down after the election, a.) they've never listened to hip-hop, which was founded on the principles of skillful braggadocio and a reflection of the urban African-American experience, and b.) they don't get what's going on in this country. Which is not to say I think every African-American agrees with all the, ahem, sentiments the rappers expressed on that jubilant inaugural evening. But the fact that the Fox talking heads (and others) are surprised our "postracial president" didn't make racial enmity disappear by walking up the Capitol steps and brushing that dirt off his shoulder, just emphasizes how wide the chasm of understanding is between not only the races, but the haves, have-nots and those-who-once-had-little-but-now-have-a-voice. 

And p.s., enough with the Aretha-dissing. On a bad day, like, say, Tuesday, she still sounds better than anyone I know, and she damn sure dresses better. No one other than the first lady of soul should have been up on that balcony belting out a patriotic tune for Mr. President, and I, for one, am glad she's still around to do it.

January 23, 2009 11:06 AM | | Comments (0)
It's been a heckuva week, but you've done a heckuva job, brownies. Everyone, and by everyone, I mean even Fox News and Glenn Beck, is feeling cautiously optimistic about the nation's future. (But not Rush Limbaugh, who probably doesn't feel much besides outrage and cravings anyway; believe me, it takes one to know one.)

06456be0.pngSo in the spirit of a week that's made me feel like singing, I'm macking on: Musicals about American presidents. Kaufman and Hart's 1937 I'd Rather Be Right featured George M. Cohan as a singing, dancing--yes, dancing--Franklin Delano Roosevelt, proving that theater showed long ago that with the right guy in charge, anything is possible. Two other, more dubious presidential tributes come from my new favorite company, Les Freres Corbusier. (Their latest musical, Dance Dance Revolution, based on, um, Dance Dance Revolution, opens at New York's Ohio Theater in December. I'll take two comps, please. Pretty please.)  Corbusier's 2003 glam musical President Harding is a Rock Star (in production in D.C. right now--thanks to DCist's Missy Frederick for the tipoff and please comment here about the production. I'm DYING to know.) and 2006 emo musical about the founder of the Democratic party, Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, trace W. right back to his populist roots with a pair of mavericks who went rogue, and got elected for it. Finally, there's Kenya's entry into this category, Obama: The Musical. I don't know how good it is, but I know a whole lot of people over there are damn glad to be singing about someone who knows that their nation is on a continent called Africa.

There's one missing missing from this list, and I know it's a biggie, but under the circumstances, let's just acknowledge that it exists and move on. There will be plenty of time during the next four years to worry about meth-fueled skinheads. Right now, I'm happy to watch the curtain go up on the newest presidential show in town, and I'm hoping this one's a winner. 

This week I'm hating on: Prop 8. Because it sucks, as I think every other drama queen among my readership would agree. This election was all about change, and though there's been a small setback on the issue of gay marriage, I see it as an opportunity to the issue to a larger stage, as in the Supreme Court. Take heart lovers, the ACLU has taken up the fight, and since I come from the city of Rocky, I ain't ready to call it for the bad guys just yet. 

Below: Obama, the Musical (minus the very unpresidential crotch-grabbing dance numbers. If you want those, they're here.)
November 7, 2008 6:15 AM | | Comments (2)
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