Absolute fucking genius.
Yes, that's right, I think the new emo rock musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is pure gold. Rowdy, hilarious, intensely serious sometimes, wildly original. And the lead, Benjamin Walker is incandescent, not to mention wearing the tightest jeans on Broadway.
The show tells the true story of our seventh President, our first populist President and the founder of the Democratic Party, from birth to death, including his systemic genocide of the Native Americans. It tells the story in today's vernacular, in terms of today's pop culture (my favorite political sign read, "Emocracy!"), and with dozens of sly, subtle references to both Dubya and Obama. It shows us both his greatness and his darkness (some historians today call him the American Hitler for his murder of tens of thousands Indians). And I know from a friend on the "inside" that absolutely everything that happens in the show is true, including Jackson's penchant for cutting. (You thought that was only teenage girls, didn't you?)
The songs are outstanding, the dialogue is incredibly funny, pointed, and there's as much subtext as there is surface action. It's both smart and smartass. If I didn't know better, I'd say they wrote it just for this blond musical theatre rebel.
Not only does the show give us a much needed -- and freakishly accurate -- history lesson, it also says some very interesting things about these times we live in now. When Jackson warns of the dangers from terrorism in our homeland, danger on the border, etc., you realize that the modern language and references aren't just stunts or cheap laughs. The writers are saying something serious: Those who do not learn from history... yeah, no shit!
Unfortunately, the production doesn't always live up to the brilliance of the material. This show has been infected with the same virus that killed Cry-Baby and that made Toxic Avenger even worse than it already was. It's this belief that nothing's funnier than "bad acting," in giant ironic quotes, and then mugging to the audience, mouth agape, to make sure we know how funny that was just now. It makes me want to strangle the director and some of the actors. Bad acting isn't funny. It's just silly, and that's not always the same thing. Children and sitcom actors mug. It's not that hard. What's really deep down funny is what's truthful, people! That's why Bat Boy is so brilliant.
Like Bat Boy, Urinetown, Spelling Bee, Cry-Baby, Little Shop, and other shows, the way to make this show work -- and to make it funnier than this current production is -- is to play it absolutely serious. Hyper-uber-serious. It's the ridiculously high stakes that makes us laugh, not mugging at the audience. This is one of those completely overwhelming shows, so crazy, so intense, so fast-moving, that it's thrilling to be in the audience (and probably, on stage, as well). It doesn't need "help" being funny.
New Line will do this show the second they let us. Goddamn, BBAJ (that's what the cool kids are calling it) is AMAZING!
Long Live the Musical!