Tuesday, Nov. 09, 2010

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Written by Alex Timbers

Broadway's Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre

And now, the downside of rock on Broadway. The guitars are electric, the language X-rated and the staging in-your-face (the sensory assault begins with the Christmas lights festooning the orchestra seats). But this political burlesque, though energetically acted and featuring a grabby rock score by Michael Friedman, is so overwrought and simpleminded that it quickly becomes a trial to sit through, and something of an insult. The idea, children, is that Andrew Jackson, our first populist President, was actually the 1820s equivalent of a rock star (cue Tea Party references), as well as a martinet and a racist who was responsible for the slaughter and forced relocation of the Indians. There's certainly a historical argument here, but this musical has all the political sophistication of a Sarah Palin Twitter rant. Between the buffoonish antics (Jackson foes like John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay played as cartoon twits) and almost total lack of dramatic fluidity (key events like Jackson's loss of the 1924 presidential election through backroom Senate dealing are simply announced by a narrator), the revisionism just looks like a lame high school prank.