Theatre Review: ‘Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson’ at Studio Theatre’s 2nd Stage

Heath Calvert as Andrew Jackson. Photo by Scotty Beland.

Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson at Studio Theatre’s 2nd Stage, written by Alex Timbers, with music and lyrics by Michael Friedman, is music theater’s response to the eternal question: “What if President Andrew Jackson were also a rock star?” Here (at last) is the story of a tight-jeans-wearin’ rock star/President of the United States who has a lust for blood and a passion for war.

American history has never been this (bloody, bloody) fun!

Old Hickory’s biography is so chock full of conflict that it makes for choice theater. His victory at the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812 made him a national hero. He killed and displaced thousands of Native Americans over a long military career and is largely responsible for the infamous Trail of Tears. He was a wealthy slave owner who was popular for championing the common man; an anti-intellectual believer in manifest destiny and the gold standard; an orphan for whom an era was named.

Felicia Curry as Storyteller. Photo by: Scotty Beland.

Bloody, Bloody presents a version of the Jackson story that is not found in any dusty old history books, and that creative license helps make this telling of his story a decadent pleasure. It is part rock concert, part spectacle, and only a little bit of a history lesson.

Much of the show is dedicated to exploring Jackson’s inner conflicts. He struggles with his desires to avenge personal tragedies, singing about grudges he bears toward the British, the American Government, and the renegade “Indians” who (in this story) were responsible for his parents’ deaths. But what compels him to lead his troops into battle after bloody battle against the native peoples? Personal vendetta? Betterment of the nation? Self-righteousness? Not even he is sure.

Heath Calvert, who was the understudy in the original Broadway production, reprises his role as Jackson, and he is understandably terrific. Guiding the audience through the narrative is The Storyteller, a Native American character played by Felicia Curry. Her excellent acting and powerful voice make her believable as Jackson’s judge, jury, and warden.

Rachel Zampelli as Rachel Jackson and Heath Calvert as Andrew Jackson. Photo by Scotty Beland.

A rag-tag band of rock musicians joins the fun on stage and rips into the hard driving songs, which seem to be hollered from every faction of the infant nation. The ideals, needs and wants of the American people tumble out at every turn, and Jackson struggles to be everything to everyone. He craves nothing less than to become and remain the most charismatic, populist, reformist. and sexy President this great nation has ever seen.

American history has never been this (bloody, bloody) fun!

Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission.

Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson is playing at Studio Theatre, 1501 Fourteenth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005 and runs through August 5, 2012. For more information and to buy tickets, please call the Box Office at 202-332-3300 or go online.