TImely Theater Recommendation: Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson

An entertaining preview of the 'Age of Trump' at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA?


American Shakespeare Center/Lindsey Walters

Given the prominence of nationalist populism in this presidential election, the rock opera Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson is an appropriate artistic rendition of that notion. As it happens, my wife and I had the pleasure of seeing the American Shakespeare Center's high-energy production of the musical recently at the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia. The show runs through November. We were quite amused by the fact that during the pre-show festivities the actors issued frequent warnings to the audience that the show is filled with f-bombs and other salty language. They weren't lying.

Here's how ASC characterizes the show:

A president for the people, by the people—that's who Andrew Jackson believes he is. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson careens through the life and career of the charismatic and controversial seventh president, complete with rock anthems, power ballads, and wily politicians. This unswerving look at American history (sort of) and one of its most infamous presidents will keep you singing along on the edge of your seat.

In any case, the opening number—Populism Yea Yea—put me immediately in mind of Donald Trump's electoral shenanigans. The song begins with feelings of rejection, but then:

But it's the early 19th century
And we're gonna take this country back
From people like us who
Don't just think about things
People who make things happen
Sometimes with guns
Sometimes with speeches too
And also other things

Refrain: Populism, Yea Yea
This is the age of Jackson

Take a stand against the elite
They don't care anything for us
And we will eat sweet democracy
And let them eat our dust
Eat our dust, eat our dust

Cause it's the early 19th century
We'll take the land back from the Indians
We'll take the land back from the French and Spanish
And other people in other European countries
And other countries too
And also other places
I'm pretty sure it's our land anyway

Refrain: Populism, Yea Yea
This is the age of Jackson

Well, here's hoping that the early 21st century is not the age of Trump.

The musical is flawed (a lot of modern playwrights don't seem to know how to end their works satisfactorily), but the production at the American Shakespeare Center will keep you entertained.

In fact, the American Shakespeare Center puts on the best performances of the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries that I have ever seen (and I've seen a lot including the over-rated Royal Shakespeare Company). Go see Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, but be sure to treat yourselves to the great pleasure of seeing their other excellent productions.

Disclosure: Pamela and I donate to ASC and we go see nearly everything they produce—although I am pretty sure that I don't need to ever see another production of The Taming of the Shrew.