Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (The SOB Review)

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (The SOB Review) - Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, New York, New York

*1/2 (out of ****)

The emperor -- er, president -- has no clothes and his name is Andrew Jackson.

Sure the mob rule in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson may be all sexypants. But sexy ain't necessarily pretty, unless you mean pretty dumb.

Proudly wearing its anachronistic satire on its tight pant leg, this emo-rock musical ever so loosely based on the life of the seventh president of the United States at least has two considerable things working in its favor:  Michael Friedman's bloody good score and its game cast led by the charismatic Benjamin Walker in the title role. It's understandable how these two aspects of the show alone could provide a groundswell of support.

But then there's Alex Timbers' book. Tempted as I am to say it's clever by half, in truth it's rarely clever. There are flashes of brilliance, but too often it parades as a sophomoric "Schoolhouse Rock" with Looney Tunes sound-effects. Except this is a pottymouth history lesson you'd never want your kids to learn if you cared a wit about the all the facts.

While Timbers' anachronistic direction doesn't bother me, his often disingenous deconstruction of early American history does. Yes, there are many parallels that can be drawn between Jackson's time and today. But Timbers' obtuse book fails to connect the dots satisfactorily. So sloppily written is this show at times that you'd think Jackson's biggest headache was in dealing with a Republican-dominated Congress, even though the GOP as we know it wasn't formed until nine years after his death.

I'm fully aware that mobs of critics practically hoisted this Andrew Jackson on their shoulders, celebrating it after first opening earlier this year at the Public Theater. But populism ain't all it's cracked up to be, and I resist mobs. 

So even though this mob at least rocked my world, it's incapable of ruling it. As a result, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson fails to earn my vote. Ironically, since the real Andrew Jackson championed the individual, I think he may have understood.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

In keeping with the new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations that unfairly discriminate against bloggers, who are now required by law to disclose when they have received anything of value they might write about, please note that I have received nothing of value in exchange for this post.

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At 14 October, 2010, Blogger Linda said...

Thank you. I felt like I was taking crazy pills reading the reviews this morning. I saw it at The Public, but from what I understand, it barely changed, so I feel confident that my assessment still stands. I think many critics are reading too much into the show and giving Timbers too much credit. Your review is spot on.

At 14 October, 2010, Anonymous Guillaume said...

You are too kind. When I saw this at the Public, it seemed like a Hasty Pudding show. Seeing it uptown, I realize that I overvalued it. It's a Hasty Pudding show performed by SNL rejects (Benjamin Walker excepted). And to think: People reading Brantley's muddy, obfuscating piece (ie, "the review"), will think the show is conceivably worth seeing. As my ami de plume Elomire might say: Oy.

At 15 October, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interestingly enough, I think La Bete makes the same arguments against populism, but does it far more cleverly. And it wants to be clever. Ultimately it is a far more successful show, but still not as intelligent as it pretends to be. Still, I'm sure that when you see it you'll see the parallels-only with its much better script, you'll enjoy La Bete far more.

At 15 October, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shocked at reading Brantley's "review," and wondering if we saw two different performances, (we didn't....I was there Press Night), the SOB Review accurately reflects my feelings about the show, and I must say likely most others as exhibited by audience reaction throughout the performance. I was pleased that "Bloody Bloody" followed four of my favorite words for some theater, "one act no intermission" and was delighted to get to Bar Centrale early!

At 18 October, 2010, Blogger jill said...

i saw it last weekend and i loved it. great score, great cast, weird and wacky show. a fun night at the theater.

At 18 October, 2010, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Glad you enjoyed it, Jill. I went in with such high expectations after all the raves and walked away very disappointed. Oh well.


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