Music & Lyrics by Michael Friedman
Book by Alex Timbers
Directed by Scott Ferguson
Music Direction by James Morehead
Choreography by Christopher Pazdernik
Produced by Bailiwick Chicago Theater
At National Pastime Theater, Chicago
Hilariously stages and totally fun historical parody aims to make in-your-face statement
Kudos to Bailiwick Chicago Theater for snagging the first Chicago rights to the cult Broadway musical, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Under the free flowing direction by Scott Ferguson and a game cast with a kick-ass rock band, Bloody unfolds as 100 minutes of manic laughter, exaggerated hyperbole , and loads of folk/rock tunes. This show’s strength comes from several elements: first, the cast, led by the ironic Matt Holzfeind, exudes the parody and satire giving a bittersweet tone to the show. Next, the movements and choreography revved up the parody; lastly, the production values were superb. The band wailed without over powering us with volume, the biting lyrics, for the most part, could easily be understood (rare for a rock infused show). The pace moved swiftly giving the work a free-flowing feels that kept us engaged.
This exhilarating show takes a tongue- in- cheek look at the history of Andrew Jackson, our first maverick President. We see the life of “Old Hickory” from his birth in rural Tennessee to his Native American Indian fighting to his election as a populist President. The show answers the question: “Is wanting to have a beer with someone reason enough to elect him? What if he’s really, really hot?”
This show uses silly humor, parody, and loads of music to re-write history while also containing a subtext about how and why we select our leaders. The 100 minutes are fun, often exhilarating. While I’m not a fan of punk rock music, I found those numbers cute and appropriate to the material and style of the show. The not overpowering sound helped. The terrific rock-style singing made most of the lyrics understandable-which added to the comedy. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is a worthy, pleasing rowdy romp that rumbles. Matt Holtzfeind has enough charm, charisma, and comedic timing to make Andrew Jackson an empathetic figure despite depicting Jackson’s violent tendencies toward Native Americans. If you liked Spring Awakening, you’ll love Bloody. Bailiwick Chicago Theater has mounted a terrific musical with slick staging and dedicated performers. It is pure fun with an in-your-face edge that bites. This show will appeal to younger audiences yet old guys like me can still enjoy it. That is a rarity, especially with rock shows.
At National Pastime Theater, 941 W. Lawrence, Chicago, IL, tickets $25 – $30, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 6pm, special Industry night performance on Monday, October 29 at 8pm, running time is 1 hour, 40 minutes without an intermission, through November 10, 2012