“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” – Phoenix Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ June 10, 2013


Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix Theatre will never be the same after Friday’s opening of the history-bending retelling of America’s 7th President in the musical “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.”  It’s a raucous, down-and-dirty way of exposing our first populist President as author Alex Timbers paints Jackson as a rock star.

Before Jackson, the country was steeped in formal decorum and even those born in the trenches took on an aristocratic snobbery when they became President.  Jackson threw aside that accepted arrogance and let the people bend political leadership to be by and for commoners.  Jackson and his Tennessee background represented Americans without the stuffy hyperbole championed by this country’s early leaders.

This 2010 musical lacks the stodgy way history is usually taught but it’s probably reality as it describes the way Jackson devised and developed his power, his influence, and his way of bringing common people into the previously formal corridors of capitalism.  The rock score is not the kind of music usually used to explain these parts of history but the contemporary sound brings dynamic energy to the storytelling.

If Phoenix Theatre is going to do a very contemporary musical like “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” what better director to bring this production to vibrant life than Stray Cat Theatre’s artistic director Ron May.  He stages the show with his usual splash, dash, and flourishes to bring the story to throbbing life.

May also brings many of his Stray Cat actors.  These performers haven’t previously appeared on the Phoenix Theatre stage and there isn’t a misstep from anyone in the cast.  Caleb Reese delivers a brilliant Jackson.  There’s nothing pretentious about Reese’s Jackson.  He’s the man of the people and that’s clear from his commanding presence and domination over the show.  Katie McFadzen’s a hoot as the man hungry Storyteller as she weaves in the story’s narrative parts in a winningly comical way.  Joe Kremer struts mightily as Henry Clay and Black Fox, the Indian representative in Jackson’s administration.  Ashley Stults parades as the strong willed Rachel Jackson, a women’s libber ahead of her time.  And Adam Vargus is just right as the conservative Martin Van Buren, a steadying force in Jackson’s fast-moving administration.

The expansive unit set is fine as are the quasi-historical costumes but they never transport you to the early 1830s period of Jackson’s presidency.

“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” is a rich historical entertainment.  Just be warned that it’s a realistic view as told through the eyes of contemporary sensibilities.  “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” continues through June 23.  For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: A

One Response to ““Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” – Phoenix Theatre”

  1. Anne Till said:

    Jun 12, 13 at 23:16

    Maybe I just need to see it again and not be at the back of the theater. I just didn’t enjoy it very much. The cast, set, and music was great, but I just didn’t get into the story/presentation.