BWW Reviews: BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON - A Rocking & Rollicking Good Time
Patriotism seems to be a running theme in the Houston theatre scene this summer, and each piece is just as mesmerizing as the one before it. Generations: A Theatre Company's fantastic contribution to this summer's theme of patriotism is Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman's Wild West, rock anthem filled musical BLOODY BLOODY Andrew Jackson.
While rollicking and humorous on the surface, BLOODY BLOODY Andrew Jackson has a deep soul and holds up a mirror to our contemporary political situations in the United States. All the while, this magnificently created show examines Jackson's childhood, the death of his family to "cholera," his renegade ideas, his meteoric rise in government, his relationship with his wife, the elections of 1824 and 1828, populism, and his presidency. All of this is done through a traditional musical presentation that is often interrupted with asides to the onstage band, on-stage discussions of the metaphors being presented, and commentary about the craft and magic of live theatre.
Kregg Daily, as Andrew Jackson, is a true delight in this show. I had previously seen him as Gabe in NEXT TO NORMAL at Stages Repertory Theatre-a role that did not allow him to truthfully showcase his powerhouse skills. Therefore, I was a bit nervous to see him take on this meaty role. However, his impressive rockstar chops, which easily rival the talents of any big name superstar you can think of, prove that he simply was born to play this kind of role and Andrew Jackson in particular. His stage presence, charisma, and charm command the audience's attention, keeping spectators riveted throughout the entire performance. Kregg Daily is a powerhouse force to be reckoned with in this show, and may even outshine Benjamin Walker who originated the role of Andrew Jackson in Lose Angeles and went on to play it to critical acclaim in New York and on the original cast recording.
Stephanie Styles is purely divine as Rachel Jackson and other various characters. She brings heart and soul into each performance and delivers beautiful and enchanting vocals. Of other productions of the show, I am only familiar with what is represented on the original cast album; however, I would take Stephanie Styles renditions of this score over Maria Elena Ramirez, who played the role on Broadway, any day.
Allison Sumrall is hilarious as The Storyteller and makes comedic timing look so simple in her line delivery. Before seeing tonight's performance, I was not aware that this role existed in the show, and Allison Sumrall delivers a performance that as surprisingly comic as it is enjoyable.
Grant Brown as Martin Van Buren, Luis Quintero as Black Fox and other various roles, and Morgan Starr as Ten Little Indians soloist and other various roles all stand out as exceptionally memorable as well. Each of these actors delivers tangibly genuine and completely entertaining performances in their assigned roles. They deliver full-fledged rock moments coupled with provoking, softer moments. All three are skilled and talented enough to leave a mark on both the mind and spirit.
Tyce Green, Graham Baker, Billy Cohen, Forrest Surles, Dylan Hunt, JayTee Barbour, Anne Cape, and Jennifer Laporte are delightful in their respective roles as well. In this show every one must pull their weight to pull it off, and each of these actors do just that and then some.
The band, composed of Frank DeBretti, Matthew McDonald, Alan Simmons, Hugh Zabriskie, and led by Forrest Surles are captivating as well. They are fantastic musicians but great actors too, interacting with several characters across various scenes.
The direction by George Brock and choreography by Kristin Warren is superb. No action or dance move is out of place and everything feels natural, which is quite a feat. Through their combined efforts, it is easy for the audience to buy into the pairing of the 19th Century with the modern. The juxtapositions play off each other well and add an experimental veracity and honesty to the show. I also feel that this team than pulls off this unusual pairing better than Michael Mayer and Bill T. Jones did with SPRING AWAKENING on Broadway. Moreover, Bridget Styles costume design adds great style and a nice touch of substance to George Brock and Kristin Warren's work as well.
The lighting design and projections by Matt Schlief are immaculate and become a character in their own right. Matt Schlief's attention to detail and research (as expressed in the previous published interview I conducted with this team) really pays off in the performance. It also perfectly accentuates Jodi Bobrovsky's expertly designed set, allowing the audience to understand locale and more with a simple square of light on one of the many vignettes on the upstage wall. The best thing about these vignettes and that when all lit at once, they compliment each other and do not stand out until they are supposed to.
BLOODY BLOODY Andrew Jackson as presented by Generations: A Theatre Company really should not be missed. It is a vastly entertaining and thought-provoking evening of quality theatre. Additionally, this company perfectly utilizes its Broadway caliber talent and delivers a wonderfully fantastic production that is sure to fascinate and inspire. Lastly, BLOODY BLOODY Andrew Jackson is unique and very original, filling any voids that any of the recent jukebox or movie-inspired musicals may have left in you.
Generations: A Theatre Company is presenting BLOODY BLOODY Andrew Jackson at Rice University's Hamman Hall from now until July 29, 2012. For tickets or more information, visit http://www.generationsatc.org/ or call (832) 326 – 1045.
Photos are courtesy of George Brock and Generations: A Theatre Company.
Populism, Yeah Yeah!
From Left to Right: Grant Brown (Martin Van Buren); Morgan Starr (Ten Little Indians Soloist); Kregg Daily (Andrew Jackson); Stephanie Styles (Rachel Jackson); Billy Cohen (James Madison)
Three Tommy Tune Award Winners: Morgan Best Supporting Actress 2012, Billy Best Actor 2012, Stephanie Best Actress
Left to Right: Morgan Starr (Ten Little Indians Soloist); Billy Cohen (James Monroe); Stephanie Styles (Rachel Jackson)