Regional Reviews: Seattle
Arts West Excites with Vigorous
Cleverly painting Jackson as America's first rock-star president, the musical focuses on populism, the Indian Removal Act, and Jackson's stormy relationship with his wife Rachel, in a format at once flashy and hollow. Strong targets of derision are other notable political contemporaries of Jackson's, namely John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, John Calhoun and Martin Van Buren. Also pointed up is the conflicted relationship between Jackson and Black Foxan Indian chief who organized the remaining tribes into a confederation against Tennessee settlers. The musical ultimately states that Jackson is viewed disparately as one of our great presidents and as an American Hitler for his part in the genocidal repercussions his actions took on the Indian tribes. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson has moments of chilling power that for me recall some of the best in Stephen Sondheim's controversial Assassins yet diminishes those moments with a history as vaudeville approach more suitable to lighter-toned tuners such as Barnum and The Will Rogers Follies.
Kody Bringman is a young talent to reckon with, bringing both vocal dynamism and acting chops to the title role. Meg McLynn imbues her Rachel Jackson with fire and heartbreak. Jeff Orton is strikingly impressive as the ultimately betrayed Black Fox, and child actor Morgan Gwilym So gives a remarkably mature and touching portrayal of Jackson's adopted son Lyncoya. Solid ensemble standouts include Mandy Price as a wacky tour-guide/storyteller, Robert Scherzer as an endearingly oafish Van Buren, and in a multitude of roles Cindy Bradder, Justin Huertas, and Brian Lange, with musician Bill Williams delivering a standout vocal in the show's penultimate number "Second Nature." Musical director Kimberly Dare has worked well bringing out solid cast vocals, as well as delivering the goods with her onstage musicians.
Director Zinovitch and Jill Beasley share credit for the production's colorfully trashy scenic design, and Anastasia Armes has supplied the flashily eclectic array of costumes. Sound designer Heidi Hunt was dealing with some rather deadly sound glitches at the opening, which were surely eliminated at future performances.
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson runs at Arts West Playhouse in West Seattle through October 20th. For tickets or information contact the ArtsWest box office at 206-938-0339 or visit them online at www.artswest.org.
- David Edward Hughes