Results tagged “public theater” 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:
- 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.
- I wanted to see if this musical that resonated so deeply during W's tenure would have the same cathartic punch under Obama.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
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.