BWW Review: Arizona Regional Theatre Presents BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON
I've got three points to make about BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON which completes a two week run at Arizona Regional Theatre.
First, the Michael Friedman and Alex Timbers rock musical is a generally fun but predictably superficial review of the seventh President's rise to popularity and ignominious fame. As a history lesson, it doesn't rise to the depth and sophistication of a HAMILTON. Its job is satire, and to that end, it tracks the emergence of the lost boy of the Tennessee hills to frontier warrior, renegade politician, and demagogic national leader of the people. At the same time, to its credit, while it puts the pop in populism, it also exposes its perils.
The show's appeal to fans of rock musicals is understandable. The formula: clever songs, intense rhythms, a predictable amount of grunge, skin, leather, gratuitous vulgarity, attitude, all woven together by an overarching message of political and ethical significance. In this case, with its illustrations of the white man's deal-making and deal-breaking at the expense of clueless Indian tribes, we grok again at what cost the manifest destiny of this nation was fulfilled. We are reminded that we must beware the demagogues who presume to be our saviors and for whom their ends will justify any means.
Second, ART's production, directed by founders Kayla Etheridge and Kimberly Sheperd, is blessed with some great talents. Logan Scott Mitchell is super-engaging as he stretches his voice to the limits and portrays the hero as a simpering soul who overcomes the grief of personal losses by venting his ire at everybody else ~ the English, the Spaniards, the Washington elites (whom he believes have ignored the frontiersmen), and the Native Americans. Any resemblance to contemporary figures is, of course, merely coincidental.
Mitchell is backed up by Lorenzo Slavin's knockout rock-solid band and the rich and fiery voices of Savoy Antoinette (Jackson's wife, Rachel), Mychal Leverage, Nicholas Hambruch, and Brandi Bigley.
The comic foils of BBAJ are quite appropriately the bewigged D.C. power-elite of the time: Casey Karapetian (the ingratiating Martin Van Buren), Kyle Webb (James Monroe), Patrick McMullen (John C. Calhoun), Bennett Allen Wood (a cartoonish version of John Quincy Adams), and David Devine (Henry Clay). Additional chuckles are provided by Kira Galindo as the quite quirky wheelchair-patrolling Storyteller.
For quality of ambience, Nathan Alfred's rough hewn frontier set and Shirley Ditsworth's period paraphernalia bring the old west home.
Thirdly, as it relates to the consistency of ART's production quality, this show, like its predecessors, from JEKYLL AND HYDE to PARADE, is a strong affirmation of this fledgling company's importance and value as niche theatre in the Phoenix region. Next up is LUCKY STIFF, from December 6th through the 15th.
BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON's run: October 18th through the 27th at the 3rd Street Theater at the Phoenix Center for the Arts in Phoenix, AZ.
Photo credit to JALT Media
Arizona Regional Theatre ~ https://www.arizonaregionaltheatre.org/ ~ 3rd Street Theater, 1202 N. 3rd Street ~ Phoenix, AZ 85004 ~ Box Office: 602-698-8668