BWW Review: Warehouse Theatre's BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON Demands to be Seen
The President shouts, almost screams: "We're going to take our country back!"
Turns out that is only one of many prescient moments in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, a musical written in 2006 that ran on Broadway in 2010 and opened this weekend in a mind-blowing new production at Greenville, SC's Warehouse Theatre. Immersive, irreverent, and almost anarchic, this show demands your attendance.
Describing the show is a little bit difficult. Is it a sort of proto-Hamilton, with non-traditional casting and modern music influences coming together to retell and reassess a historical figure's legacy? Is it a Monty Python sketch crossed with a performance art piece crossed with a Green Day concert? Is it a shockingly profane, insanely raucous, often times hilarious, surprisingly interactive, and truly one-of-a-kind theatrical experience?
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.
Director Andrew Scoville and scenic designer Will Lowry use every inch of The Warehouse space to bring this musical to life. There are stages on two walls, but the performers show up everywhere in this theatre-in-the-round setting. If you're sitting at a table, you might just find a performer standing on that table at some point.
Benjamin Taylor Davis stars as our nation's seventh President, Andrew Jackson, reimagined as a sort of hybrid emo/punk. Davis commands the room, bringing with him a reckless energy and childishly petty demeanor that perfectly fits this view of our first populist President.
Davis is backed by a crack live band, led by music director LeRoy Kennedy, and a top-notch ensemble who each assume different roles throughout the performance. Just a few of the standouts include Sarah Adams as the bandleader, Aaron Brakefield as Henry Clay and many other parts, Emily Grove in numerous roles but particularly when she demonstrates her fine voice singing "Ten Little Indians," K. Ray Jones as Jackson's ally Black Fox and an especially hilarious John Quincy Adams, Crystal Marie Stewart's emotional turn as Jackson's wife, Rachel, and Drew Whitley as the Twinkie-eating Martin Van Buren.
Technically, the show is flawless. Will Lowry's set is stunning and beautifully brought to life by Kevin Frazier's lights. Jim Breitmeier also deserves praise for his sound design. Striking the right balance between vocalists and a live band is tricky in the best of venues, especially when you're aiming for a raw, punk rock sound. But Breitmeier - no doubt aided by the efforts of music director LeRoy Kennedy - gets it just right, allowing us to hear every note of the music while never missing a word. Praise, too, goes to Kendra Johnson's costumes which perfectly combine a stripped-down, slapped-together, rock-and-roll sensibility with a hint of historical flair. And I mustn't forget choreographer Ben Hobbs. Hobbs and director Andrew Scoville keep the actors on the move, inhabiting every part of the stage. This is one of those shows that rewards repeat viewings. You could watch it 13 different times, each time focusing on just one performer, and come away with 13 unique impressions.
All that being said, this show isn't for everybody. After all, it's loud, non-traditional and filled with vulgarity -- think twice before bringing grandma and PLEASE do not bring kids. But whether you love it or are offended by it or are just utterly mystified, you will be entertained. And you will be glad you didn't miss it. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is everything The Warehouse Theatre's famous tagline promises: intense, intimate, and unexpected.
The musical finds our seventh President cast as a petulant teenage rock star, following him from the campaign trail all the way through the White House. Jackson captures the Presidency as a born and bred American with a message that resonates with and galvanizes the common people, as opposed to the ruling class that preceded him. Ascending from his hard-scrabble upbringing, he finds himself in the Oval Office and discovers that campaigning is easy, but governing is hard. This musical explores how our great democratic experiment works and helps us realize how the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The Warehouse's Producing Artistic Director Mike Sablone shepherded the musical from first draft through three productions up to Broadway in 2010, winning a Drama Desk award and receiving multiple Tony Award nominations.
Tickets are $40 for General Admission, $45 for Reserved Seating, and $65 for Premium Immersive Seats which are positioned in the middle of the stage floor offering the most intimate musical experience possible plus accompanying swag. Tickets can be purchased at www.WarehouseTheatre.com or by calling 864-235-6948.
Photo credit: Escobar Photography