When the 7th President of our United States, Andrew Jackson, swaggers out onstage, in eyeliner, black nails and with a microphone in his holster, telling the audience that they are sexy, you can bet that this is not gonna be your Grandma's American History lesson. Not that we would really expect that - not from New Line Theatre, nor from their current rock musical "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" with book by Alex Timbers and music and lyrics by Michael Friedman.
This revisionist re-telling, done with irreverent sensitivity, makes history much funnier than you might think. A middle-aged female historian (who obviously has a crush on the very virile Jackson) is our narrator. When his parents kick it early on in his life (who knew that cholera could be hilarious?), young shitkicker Andrew, in true emo fashion, proclaims that "Life Sucks", and vows to change the quality of that life, not only for himself, but for everyone around him. Unfortunately, this involves kicking out everybody who is not his idea of American - namely the French, the Spanish, the British, and of course, those pesky Indians. These deeds, however heinous, make him a hero - he does, after all, single-handedly double the size of real estate in America, and this also makes him the first governor of Florida. His brand of rule by the whim of the people catches on in the number "Populism, Yea Yea", and after losing a bid for the presidency to John Quincy Adams and his cronies in a backroom deal now known as "The Corrupt Bargain", the second time is a charm, and our young rebel can invite anyone he wants to the White House. However, like our current president, he learns that running the United States is a hard thing, and that you can't please everyone all the time.
John Sparger is outstanding as Andrew Jackson - mixing punkabilly swag with sweet redneck charm. He, like Andrew, IS a "Rock Star" - he looks like Andrew Jackson and he is the exact right choice to lead the rest of this talented cast! All turn in fine performances in a number of roles, specifically Amy Kelly as the devoted Narrator; Taylor Pietz as the love of his life, Rachel; Nicholas Kelly as reluctant ally Chief Black Fox; and most hilariously, Brian Claussen as the slightly fey and harried Vice-President Martin van Buren. Stephanie Brown (along with Pietz, Sarah Porter and Chrissy Young) does nice work on the punk-cabaret-styled "Ten Little Indians". And, of course, the bad boys of New Line - Zachary Allen Farmer, Todd Micali and Mike Dowdy anchor the cast admirably as various politicians, rednecks and other sundry characters.
Scott Miller directs the insanity with abandon - adroitly melding the anachronistic profanely funny 2000's style comedy with a touching reality, especially where it counts: in scenes between Andrew and Rachel, and scenes between Andrew and Black Fox. Justin Smolik leads the tight band (with D. Mike Bauer adding vocals) - they sound good, but here is the first time you'll hear a critic say this: With all that good rocking going on, I wish they were LOUDER!
So if you like your history with a little hysteria, you should definitely consider checking out this rollicking rock musical at New Line Theater. "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" continues at the theater at Washington University South Campus Theater through Oct. 20th. For tickets or more information, visit NewLineTheatre.com or call Metrotix at 314-534-1111.