Democratic cartoon shows Andrew Jackson, the 7th president of the United States, fighting the monster Bank. "The Bank", Jackson told Martin Van Buren, "is trying to kill me, but I will kill it!" (Photo: Wikipedia)

Populism Yeah Yeah!

San Jose Stage Company has landed the regional premiere of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. The brash and irreverent rock musical, about the country we live in and the leaders we choose, uses a blend of comedy, rebellious theatricality and an emo rock score. Written by Alex Timbers with music and lyrics by Michael Friedman, the play opens at The Stage June 6 – July 29 and is directed by Rick Singleton.

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson redefines the life of the 7th president of the United States through a filter of glorified teenage angst and rockstar posturing. President Jackson’s tenure in the Oval Office left an indelible mark on the history of the United States and this production portrays the persona of a man we’ve only met in textbooks as a counter-culture icon. Using pop culture vernacular, this musical reshapes the major events that outlined Andrew Jackson’s life and administration: his relationship with first lady Rachel Jackson, the state of populism and the Indian Removal Act. With numbers like “Populism Yeah Yeah”, “The Corrupt Bargain”, “Rock Star and The Great Compromise”, this musical comedy was nominated for two Tony Awards in 2011 and won the 2010 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical.

In office from March 4, 1829 to March 4, 1837, Jackson was a political maverick and his philosophy, and the era in which it was adopted, has since been coined the Jacksonian democracy. His pioneer upbringing in Tennessee and military service on the American Frontier made him a figure that the common man could relate to, a point that was proven by his immense popularity with voters. Andrew Jackson prided himself as a man of the people.

In discussing the timing of the play, Artistic Director Randall King stated, “We hoped to attain the rights in time for this year’s presidential election. The muses were generous, and we are thrilled to be able to present Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, the regional premiere of this new break-all-rules musical.”

While referring to the striking parallels Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson shares with modern politics, King noted, “The show makes clear that those in power, like everyone else, make choices based on the times in which they live.” He went on to say, “Above and below the surface, this has been a politically-charged season of theatre at The Stage. It portrays the rebellious teenager that America was in the early 19th century. Revisiting the 1820s and 1830s in a rock ‘em and shock ’em musical is a lot of fun to produce and even more fun to watch.”

According to Director Rick Singleton, “I think the challenge is going to be balancing what we know and what we feel about Jackson. I have to admit that Jackson’s activity was pretty unfamiliar to me. Just a face on the twenty and not much else. I sat there when I saw it on Broadway and found that it didn’t really matter where you sat in history class, it is still a real eye opener.” He went on to say, “Politics in this country travels through the centuries in this play, and has been compared to Saturday Night Live with an Off-Broadway twist.”

Rick Singleton directs the production for The Stage, where he helmed the sold-out runs of Cabaret (review), Avenue Q (review) and Altar Boyz. His other notable directorial credits for the Company include The Pillowman (review), I Am My Own Wife, The Diary of Anne Frank, Urinetown, The Musical and Angry Housewives.

Jonathan Rhys Williams returns to The Stage in the title role of Andrew Jackson and Halsey Varady returns to play Rachel Jackson, the First Lady. The ensemble includes Clarissa Chun, David Colston Corris, Courtney Hatcher, Chanz Kallstrom, Mari Magaloni, Jon Lee, Allison F. Rich, Manuel Romero, Martin Rojas Dietrich, Will Springhorn Jr., Jef Valentine and Aaron Wilton.

The show’s designers include Thierry Chantrel (set) Michele Wynne (costumes), Selina G Young (lighting) and John Koss (sound).

Monica Turner
Contributor to Stark Insider for tech, the arts and All Things West Coast for over 10 years.