BWW Reviews: BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON
'Jackson' is the bloody bloody brilliant musical rendition of one of America's most historically controversial figures.
Kyle Jurassic dominates the stage as the eyeliner-wearing, hip-thrusting emo frontman. He's wearing his tightest black jeans and a swagger so charismatic and charming that you almost forgive America's painful past and the atrocities committed during the age of populism.
We follow the enigmatic Jackson from tragic childhood through his legacy at the end of life. Accompanied by a hilariously flamboyant Van Buren (Jared Graybiel), he takes on the French, the Spanish, the native populations, and the pompous inhabitants of Washington D.C. at the point of a gun and with the love of the people (for a while).
"We're gonna take this country back for people like us/who don't just think about things," belts the cast in the opener "Populism, Yea, Yea". Yes, this is a highly over-the-top political satire, but it doesn't fall as far from reality as the viewer may think. Not only did many of the plot points depicted actually happen to our seventh President, but a hidden jewel amongst the snark and blood-soaked erotic metaphors is a truth that resonates in modern day politics. Between the perpetual battle between the elites and the common man, the cross-party bickering, the political popularity contests, the good old boys' club, and the supporters turning their backs on a dime when it's clear Jackson can't be everything to everyone, it's impossible not to think that very little has changed in the last couple of centuries.
Strong vocal performers keep the raucous energy alive throughout the course of the show, and the humor is both smarter and more profane than what you'll find in the standard musical. You will laugh 'til you howl at the star-struck Storyteller (Mackenzie Moira) and I can assure you that you'll never think of Old Hickory the same way again.
As they, themselves, will tell you, Actors' Theatre of Grand Rapids is THAT theatre: fearless in the face of controversy and always energetic and entertaining. And did I mention they're hot? Really hot?
Book by Alex Timbers; music and lyrics by Michael Friedman; choreographed and directed by Kyle Amanda Dutkiewicz. Presented by Grand Rapids Actors' Theatre at the GRCC Spectrum Theater; (616) 234-3946. Through February 22nd. For mature audiences. Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission.
WITH: Matt Ablan (various), Maddie Blyveis (various), Jason DeJager (Clay), Jared Graybiel (Van Buren), Jackie Green (various), Kyle Jurassic (Andrew Jackson), Connor Manion (Calhoun), Mackenzie Moira (Storyteller), Noddea Moore Skidmore (Rachel), Benjy Schirm (Adams), Colin Tobin (Monroe)