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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson: Remember That Title

posted by on February 21 at 12:05 PM

This show—which I saw in LA last week before its final tweaks and big unveiling in NYC—is going to be huge:

Sadly, the youtube clips are sub-par and make the musical (by Alex Timbers, of NYC’s Les Freres Corbusier) seem amateurish. Yes, it’s an emo-rock/sketch-comedy musical about Andrew Jackson, but Bloody Bloody both deploys and mocks the emo-rock/sketch-comedy aesthetic. Like if Jon Stewart and Green Day got together to write a show—it rocks and it winks at the same time.

It’s all about populism, you see. You can hear the show’s flagship number, “Populism Yea Yea!” (which, on the recording, also sounds more bloodless and amateurish than it was live) here.

The show posits Jackson as a sexy, petulant, rock-star president. The conceit fits—Jackson was the drunkest, fightingest president we’ve ever had, and a contradictory, emotional basket case: He married his wife while she was married to another guy, fought 13 duels (mostly over her honor), and waged brutal Indian Wars while his adopted Creek son was running around the White House.


And Bloody Bloody creates its own universe of rock-star sexiness eerily well. During one of Jackson’s rallies, actresses playing teenage girls squealed “We want to fuck you, Andrew Jackson!” and held placards reading “emocracy now!” Then actual teenage girls, in the the actual audience, started squealing about wanting to fuck the actor playing Jackson.


That actor, Benjamin Walker, is a dynamo and the set is fantastic—it begins as a saloon-bordello (piano, chandelier, taxidermied deer, squirrels, and alligator) and turns into this:


Imagine that, but blindingly bright, the music roaring, the teenage girls onstage and offstage screaming, Jackson wailing “life sucks, and my life sucks in particular” while the ensemble sings behind him:

Sometimes you have to take the initiative.
Sometimes your whole family dies of cholera.
Sometimes you have to make your own story.
Sometimes you have to shoot the storyteller in the neck.
Sometimes you have to take back the country.
Sometimes you have to kill everyone, everyone.

Populism, yeah yeah!

Until the interweb deigns to give us more and better clips of the show, you’ll have to take my word for it—start asking your favorite theater to bring Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson to Seattle now. You will love it, they will make piles of cash, and the world will be a better place.

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Haven't seen Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson yet, but I'm a fan of Le Freres Corbusier's earlier works, especially their brilliant breakthrough piece, A Very Merry Unauthorized Scientology Christmas Pageant. (Has it had a Seattle production?) Kyle Jarrow, who wrote the book, music and lyrics to Pageant, has not been as involved in the recent pieces. Truth be told, I have felt that the troupe's shows were becoming less brilliant yet more showy as Les Freres has grown more popular. However, your review gives me hope that Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson will steer Alex Timbers back in the right direction.

Posted by Bub | February 21, 2008 12:22 PM

oh, so it's a musical set in one of Linda Derschong's bars?

Posted by michael strangeways | February 21, 2008 12:28 PM

on a less smartmouth note, this actually looks like an interesting show and it would be cool if some of their shows do come to Seattle. And the cast/staff of Le Freres Corbusier are smokin'...check out pictures of them and their celebrity guests at:

Posted by michael strangeways | February 21, 2008 12:53 PM

how did the show handle the indian wars and the removal? it seems like it could be an intersting show but i have mixed feelings after listening to the myspace clip, 10 little indians. irony and genocide, when its a subject close to you, can be difficult to take.

Posted by Jiberish | February 21, 2008 1:05 PM

Whatever they say about Andrew Jackson, chances are that they will leave out that to date he is the one and ONLY American president who stated repeatedly, while in office, mind you, that allowing disparity in wealth between rich and poor to grow without government intervention was a threat to national security.

No other president we have ever had would touch that one with a 10-fooot pole. But Jackson nailed it, and FDR proved it.

Posted by ivan | February 21, 2008 1:11 PM

Jiberish, Les Corbusier is deeply rooted in irony. Again, I haven't seen Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, but if it is like the troupe's other shows, Jackson likely sings with pride about killing Indians. Of course, this is designed to make Jackson look bad to today's audiences. If you have a close connection to the genocide, I think it would be difficult to take if you hear people laughing at the outrageousness of Jackson's statements.

Posted by Bub | February 21, 2008 1:17 PM

You guessed rightly, Bub—Jackson sings with pride about killing Native Americans (and Spaniards and Brits and Frenchmen: he was an ecumenical killer).

But conclusion of Bloody Bloody deals with the Indian Removal Act (and its concomitant violence) in a genuine and chilling way.

Posted by Brendan Kiley | February 21, 2008 2:30 PM

Sorry to say it boys and girls, Jackson was a....Democrat and sadly the first President that the party (then also knows as "the democracy") elected.

Though he did have a populist flavor (which Democrats have exploited for good and ill) I could not deal with a musical about him. He was also a slave holder as well as a killer of Native Americans....

I will have to pass.

Posted by Andrew | February 21, 2008 2:57 PM

Forgive me, Andrew, but I don't get it. Because attending a musical that is critical of Andrew Jackson will, somehow, indicate that you're pro-slavery and genocide? That seems bizarre.

Posted by Brendan Kiley | February 21, 2008 3:27 PM

I actually just did MONOPOLY! in Seattle, which as one of its threads is my experiences being produced by Les Freres Corbusier, my time with Alex Timbers and our efforts to secure a gigantic Tesla coil for show. They're good people.

Posted by Mike Daisey | February 21, 2008 3:43 PM

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