Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson – The History Class Not Taught in School (5 Stars)
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson – Music and Lyrics written by Michael Friedman; Book by Alex Timbers; Produced by Brian Boruta; Directed by James Tallach; Musical Direction by Maria Duaime Robinson; Choreography by Lara Finn; at The Umbrella Community Arts Center, 40 Stow Street,Concord, MA through April 6th
Were you the type of kid that skipped class, smoked cigarettes in the bathroom, listened to “London Calling” (or “American Idiot” depending on your age) and didn’t give a flying paper airplane about who the 7th President of the U.S. was? Well, this show is perfect for you!
Andrew Jackson was apparently, for lack of a better word, a badass. Many history books also would call him a genocidal maniac who killed a lot of Native Americans…but still, for the purposes of learning the story from his point of view, we can call him a badass. Gene Dante, the local rockstar whom many may have seen playing the God of Theater Dionysus in “The Bacchae” or Hedwig in “Hedwig and The Angry Inch,”, played a very maniacal, very sexy, and very bloody President Jackson. Seriously, there’s a lot of blood, so maybe don’t take anyone under 13 to see the awesomeness that is this rock and roll history lesson.
The music (band led by the talented Dave Levy) will keep you entangled in the show long enough to forget that the intermission is like, a thing that exists in life. The set has them elevated up above the action, overlooking the story and leading it with their tones. In between the songs, while you’re actually learning something, you’re also cracking up in laughter at a more gruesome version of the Three Stooges. If you don’t like blood, just turn your head for a second and that won’t stop you from cackling at all of the surprising character work done by the very well-cast ensemble. In one scene you’re hearing red neck hicks complain to their president, the next they’re the constituents on the street singing about Populism, and the next they’re the evil Senate and Congress. While it’s a somewhat loose version of the entire story, the blanks are filled in with our Storyteller, Shana Dirik, a hilarious and talented lady that I saw a couple of months back play Miss Minchen in “A Little Princess” at the Strand.
You learn an interesting historical tidbit every scene, like that Jackson’s wife Rachel (the fabulous singer/actress Andrea Giangreco) died of “grief” and no other explanation was put in the history books. And that John Quincy Adams (Sebastian Hoffman) was only the 6th president because jerks like James Monroe (Grant Harris) and John C. Calhoun (Eric Dwinnels) cheated and went through loopholes to rig the election. But while you were snoring on your desk as this may or may not have been explained by your Ben Stein of a high school teacher, these guys are making it hilarious and fun, all while singing to great music while wearing leather jackets.
Now, it is true that Andrew Jackson was “that guy” who made all the Indians move and killed off quite a lot of them (along with some British and Spaniards). When he first gained popularity, the Native American population was entangled in a huge land grab between the US and some other countries, all of course while the Natives cried out, “Uh, Hello?! We live here!” There wasn’t a lot of room for debate on whether the population were actually people, and sadly they were victims of racism of the day. I was left feeling conflicted on whether Andrew Jackson was a mass murderer, or just trying to please the people, and a lot of historians may agree, considering most presidents never exactly kept a blog explaining their actions.
In any case, I wasn’t sure what to expect and didn’t know a thing about Andrew Jackson before I walked in the door. After leaving, I wish every history class was taught with at least a sprinkling of sex and rock and roll. I’m thinking that you’ll feel the same, and it’s certainly worth the trip to New England’s historical Concord to find out. For more info, go to: http://www.emersonumbrella.org/theater/current-season/bloody-bloody/