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A bloody rowdy political rock musical
Who: TheatreWorks student production
When: Opens Wednesday, March 13, 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays, through March 24
Where: Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, 3955 Regent Circle
Tickets: $15, free UCCS students, no children age 4 and younger; 255-3232,
This is Andrew Jackson like you’ve never thought of him before. Yes, that Jackson — the seventh president of the United States of America.
He’s undergone quite a makeover in the Broadway musical “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.” The verdict? Sexy rock star. And, oh yes, he just happened to do some serious damage to the Native American population in the 19th century.
The critically acclaimed political rock musical opened on Broadway in 2010, and closed four short months later. The rights to the show just became available, says Kevin Landis, director of “Bloody Bloody,” and “It felt like the time was right.”
And although the show didn’t do gangbusters in terms of longevity, it did earn impressive reviews. Critic Ben Brantley of the New York Times wrote, “Alex Timbers’ and Michael Friedman’s emo-rock musical — which makes the case that this country’s relationship with its president is always deeply and irrationally personal — has returned to stake a claim as the most entertaining and most perceptive political theater of the season.”
The TheatreWorks student production opens Wednesday.
Each year the theater company opens one slot in its roster for an all-student show, says Landis.
“It’s a perfect show for college students,” he says. “It’s cross-generational and deals with a historical era, but it’s brought into the 21st century and looks at Andrew Jackson as if done by emo-rock kids in their teens. I saw it on Broadway and thought ‘This is good, but we can do it better with college students.’”
The sets are professionally designed, and it’s treated as any other mainstage production. A professional community actor is also cast, which provides a good learning experience for the students, he says. Lynne Hastings will star as the narrator in this production.
Though Landis calls it a “critical darling” on Broadway, he’s no fool. He realizes attracting audiences to a show about a president might be tricky.
In the playwrights’ hands, Landis says, it becomes “a bare, uncomfortable look at a sort of nationalism and imperialism on one level. On another, it’s a ton of fun. There’s rock music and young people looking sexy and belting their lungs out.”
Yes, the show’s about a president that you might know little about. And yes, one of the show’s most popular and catchy rock songs is called “Populism Yea Yea,” but you don’t need to be a history buff to enjoy it, he says.
“We’re talking about the 1830s. We’re all a little distant on it,” says Landis.
The cast, however, was required to get up to speed on all things Jackson.
“We didn’t do anything until we understood every reference in the play to Andrew Jackson. We’re all experts now.”
Benjamin Walker starred as the tight-jeans-wearing, black-eyeliner-loving Jackson on Broadway.
“I like that he is so complicated,” he says. “We can’t decide if he’s one of the greatest presidents or he was a genocidal maniac.”
The jury is still out on whether Jackson was a great president or an abhorrent one, and the show might not bring you to any conclusions. Landis won’t make that judgment call, but he does believe we need to mine that long-gone time for clues to America’s growth and behavior as a nation today.
“As good theater does, it’s tackling concepts that fit in both eras,” he says. “The play is an equal opportunity offender. You watch and sing along, and you’re proud to be an American, yes, but you wonder what are we doing wrong and how can we be better? Jackson, in the play, is historically referred to as both the greatest president of the 19th century and the American Hitler. He stood for American ideals of populism and power of the people that everybody feels good about, yet he destroyed the Indian population in an awful way.”
Jennifer Mulson may be reached at 636-0270.