Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson September 19-21, 26-28, 8 p.m.; September 22, 2 p.m.; $25. Onyx Theatre, 732-7225.
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson follows the life of America’s seventh president, covering his childhood on the frontier, his wartime exploits, election as president and crimes against Native Americans, Spaniards, the Supreme Court and, well, the list goes on. The first half of the show is a frenetically paced mashup of Brecht, the Muppets and My Chemical Romance, which, unfortunately, means there’s almost no place to go but down. And as the show tries to transition from raucous and irreverent to raucous and politically enlightening, it inevitably loses some steam.
Cory Goble’s Andrew Jackson is tortured, and it seems that’s all he is. Finding a real arc in his character is hard—despite the show’s jokes to the contrary—and Goble’s singing, while strong, didn’t quite push into rock-god territory. Brenna Folger as his wife Rachel carries the stage and sings well. Andy Vieluf (as Martin Van Buren) and Nicole Unger (in a variety of roles) nearly steal the second act during Jackson’s presidency. The remainder of the cast has energy to spare and sells all the songs and corny bits with zest, enough so that the sometimes-muddy harmonies and uneven solos feel minor—especially with great work in numbers like “Ten Little Indians” and “The Hunters of Kentucky.”
Big kudos to the design team, Erik Ball and Kim Rahi, for making this one of the best-looking shows at the Onyx in a while, with a strong visual design for the set and punky, sexy costumes. Christian Escobar’s choreography is simple but emphatic, perfectly suited to the strong vibe of the show. Director Troy Heard’s anarchic streak is evident throughout, and his staging pushes the show to live up to its conflicted inspiration, even if it feels like the emotional ending comes from actual history, rather than the show itself. Despite its flaws, BBAJ, drunk on whiskey and emo rock, is one sexy barn burner of a show.