Have a bloody good time with Andrew Jackson

By by dianna wray/dwray@vicad.com
June 27, 2012 at 1:27 a.m.

Andrew Jackson was awesome. If you haven't gathered that from the life of the seventh president of the United States, the musical "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" should make it pretty clear.

The musical recasts Jackson as an emo-rockstar, and if you look at some of the choices Jackson made in his life, it adds up accordingly.

Jackson was a man with a story that could have come right out of a dime store novel.

He grew up on the frontier, and was an orphan by age 14. With scant education and no money to speak of, he pulled himself up, becoming a teacher and then a lawyer on the frontier of Tennessee. After soaring to fame and renown as a general in the War of 1812, Jackson eventually became president.

While Jackson's presidency and life doesn't seem to cry out for a musical, the Tony award winning musical "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" takes that life and personality and turns it into something pretty extraordinary - an emo-rock musical that I would gladly be in the audience to see.

The opening song, titled "Populism, Yeah, Yeah" is reason enough for the price of a ticket. After all, it's not everybody that can turn the stuff of history into a story we can both identify with and tap our toes along to.

The show opened Off Broadway before moving to Broadway and collecting lots of awards. It re-envisions Jackson as a hunky guy who looks great in tight jeans and takes himself uber-seriously. It may sound silly, but populism gets explained via rock song and it's a show I advise to see if you've got the chance.

He had a complicated legacy, a man who brought himself up by the bootstraps but who also declared war on the National Bank and oversaw the Indian Removal, one of the more shameful episodes in our nation's past.

At the same time, he held the nation together during the Nullification Crisis, where Southern states claimed they had the right to nullify federal laws. Jackson also survived an assassination attempt - in fact, he actually attacked his attacker and had to be restrained.

By the time he left the White House, his legacy wasn't a simple one. The man is not an easy subject to handle, but the musical does so in a way that is both irreverent and fascinating.

It's hard to really explain Jackson, but "Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson" does so beautifully, and there's a production at the Blue Theater in Austin that I advise you take in before it closes on July 1.



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