Imagine you know some fairly funny history majors who are not geeks, and they get a little stoned, grab some electric guitars, and, without thinking too much about it, improvise a musical about the seventh president. The rock has the usual brash infectious energy you find in the best of campus indies. The dancing is all sexy. The jokes are sophomoric, but hell, some of them are sophomores. And you find yourself laughing, bopping along to the beat, stimulated by all the swaying or sashaying, and wishing you were as buzzed as they were.
A really good time can be had, for about an hour, at Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Then there comes a point when the energy flags, and you tire of collegiate potshots and sketch comedian antics (comediantics?) and what’s worse: the show goes on for another half hour. It’s as if they’ve thought of all the Jackson jokes they can think of, so they try to make a serious point, and it falls rather flat.
It should be noted that the creators know what they’re doing, here. They’re not an actual frat, uninformed about theatre, spewing out scattershot amusement. In interviews they speak of the Brechtian nature of the songs commenting upon, rather than propelling action. The script itself jokes about whether Andrew Jackson’s life story really has an arc. And there’s a mission statement, in the program, for Les Freres Corbusier, saying the group
“rejects the shy music, seamless dramaturgy and muted performance style of the 20th Century in favor of the anarchic, the rude, the juvenile, the spectacle.”
Pat on the back, brothers: Mission accomplished.
I imagine that a college frat house might be the best location to see Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Charge ten bucks, pass out beer from a keg in plastic cups, and you’ve got something wonderful. On Broadway, well, there’s an impressive renovation of the Jacobs Theatre: it looks like a Tennessee Roadhouse and I kept expecting the log lady from Twin Peaks to show up.
“Have I gone on too long?” This is a question that needs to be on the mind of every writer. In writing my all-silly all-the-time musical, Area 51, I was always concerned that we were running out of gas in the second act. Thanks to the creativity of director Gary Slavin, the act started with a funny visual reference to A Chorus Line. Then I piled on the duets: the two men using a broom and dustbin-on-a-stick as canes like song-and-dance men; the two women with a teaching song about seduction from the least likely source; old lovers reuniting to a brisk beguine; and then the inadvertent marriage proposal with Martians in glass tubes lighting up to provide back-up vocals. But was it all too much? Did the audience tire of this lunacy? These were questions that plagued me.