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Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

a Musical
by Music and lyrics by Michael Friedman; Book by Alex Timbers

COMPANY : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
ID# 4411

SHOWING : January 10, 2013 - February 17, 2013



Andrew F**king Jackson screeches into town to turn it up and turn you on! This hilarious, sexy explosion of rock and roll re-imagines our nation’s seventh president as a rock god badass maverick who fights for the common man, wrestles the country away from Native Americans – and looks HOT in a pair of skinny jeans. Uproarious and provocative, it’s a theatrical thrill ride that will rock your world!

Director Freddie Ashley
Ensemble Kyle Brumley
Ensemble Tara Chiusano
Lyncoya Sam Constantino
Rachel Rebecca Galen Crawley
Bandleader Andy Danh
Andrew Jackson Maxim Gukhman
Ensemble Jordan Hale
Ensemble Jeremiah Hobbs
Ensemble Jason-Jamal Ligon
Ensemble Bailey Sessions
Storyteller Kerrie Seymour
Ensemble Caitlin Smith
Ensemble Jeremy Wood
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"Assassins" in Reverse
by playgoer
Thursday, January 17, 2013
"Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" borrows elements from a number of Broadway musicals. Like "Assassins," it concentrates on presidents and killing (although in this case it's the president doing the killing). Like "Drowsy Chaperone" and "Into the Woods," it contains a narrator who becomes involved in the action. Like "Spring Awakening," it pastes microphone-wielding rock numbers on a 19th-century story. It does this all with an almost manic energy and an off-kilter humor that uses anachronisms and overt parallels to the current day to keep interest.

Pre-show music is provided by members of the ensemble playing acoustic guitars (and a trombone) and singing. That's a pleasant start to the evening. Then, the show starts and Jon Summers' unbalanced sound design kicks in, giving us fuzzy electric guitars and widely dissimilar sound levels for the individual cast members' microphones. The clarion voice of Caitlin Smith comes through strong and clear at all times, but everyone else finds some of their lines lost in the aural maelstrom. This really harms the performances of Bailey Sessions and Tara Chiusano, who seem to be doing a good job, but who just can't be understood at times.

The best part of the show is the performance of Kerrie Seymour as the Storyteller. She nails every line and expression. The show goes downhill fast after her act one bit ends. Andy Danh, who gets to deliver the next couple of historical facts, has a glorious singing voice, but a somewhat flat, uninteresting speaking voice that delivers no character along with the lines. Surely director Freddie Ashley could have reassigned the lines or done something to disguise this sudden shift from pro performance to amateur.

Mr. Ashley seems to have fit actors into a pre-determined directorial structure that provides some humorous stage pictures, but can get too busy at times and doesn't seem attuned to the actors' strengths and weaknesses. Maxim Gukhman has the body, face, hair, and voice of a rock star, but not the instant charisma the role calls for. The choice to keep him out of the unstructured pre-show songfest backfires, since he has to fire up the audience with direct interaction, and he comes across as a somewhat unwelcome stranger thrown into our midst. The audience reaction to him could be warmer if a little glad-handing occurred before the show.

The too-busy staging doesn't allow a chemistry to develop between Andrew Jackson and his wife Rachel, played by Galen Crawley. Ms. Crawley tends to have a bit of a hard edge, in both personality and voice, and the activity she has to go through doesn't leave much room for empathetic emoting. It's another case of forcing the actor into paces to satisfy a directorial structure that doesn't let the play develop satisfyingly. Sarah Turner's choreography feeds into this non-stop activity, but seems to be energetic and imaginative.

Surrounding Andrew and Rachel Jackson are an ensemble of actors taking on a variety of roles. To my mind, Jeremiah Parker Hobbs does the best job of delineating each of his characters, but Kyle Brumley and Jordan Hale also make positive impressions in several of their roles. As always, Jeremy Wood is an attractive presence onstage. Sam Constantino and Jason-Jamal Ligon play American Indian characters, with Mr. Ligon's natural reserve working somewhat to portray a strong-and-silent warrior, but with his toned torso doing more. This is a show with plenty of beefcake.

Kat Conley's set design is one of the most successful elements of the production. White-washed, weathered boards are painted with red and blue Jackson logos and stars and stripes motifs. They give a backwoods, patriotic feel to the proceedings, which take place on three sides of the room. Jamie Bullins' costumes include a terrific coat for Andrew Jackson and an informal, eclectic mix of clothes for the others, entirely in keeping with the spirit of the show. I particularly liked the turban given one of the "Indians" in a brief segment. Joseph P. Monaghan II's lighting works well to highlight action as it occurs throughout the playing space.

"Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" seems to be about two rewrites away from the show it wants to be. Having a bar operating onstage throughout the show might be one way to attempt to disguise this. For an intermissionless show, though, it's not enough. Even so, with a less reserved audience than the one I was a part of, the show might be more fun. My advice is to get in the mood for the show before going. This is a production in which the cast is likely to feed upon the energy of the audience. An engaged cast and an engaged audience might make for a worthwhile viewing experience. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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