Nashville Rep is among Nashville’s most brilliant theatre companies. Part of the reason they’re so spectacular is that no matter the genre, whether they’re presenting their beloved annual holiday offering A Christmas Story, a classic like last month’s Sense and Sensibility, last year’s Posterity or their current offering, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (on stage at TPAC’s Johnson Theatre thru Saturday, November 4), they excel in showcasing a fresh take and fresher talent. Bloody Bloody is no exception.
Having never seen Blood Bloody Andrew Jackson, but being slightly familiar with the premise and some of the soundtrack, I knew, going in, I was in for a rockin’ good time. Workshopped in 2006 and making it’s Off-Broadway premiere three years later (with an official Broadway premiere the following year), Bloody beat American Idiot—the stage version of Green Day’s popular rock opera concept album—to the punch, but only slightly, while it beat that other
What’s incredible about Bloody Bloody is that in spite of the fact that it sort of takes place in the early 19th century—it is about Andrew Jackson, after all—it’s brought into the modern era with a totally modern anti-establishment punk/emo vibe by featuring a rocking soundtrack originally conceived by Michael Friedman and perfectly presented in the Nashville Rep production courtesy Jason Tucker, the show’s director and musical director, with auditory excellence from bandleader/guitarist/pianist Luke Easterling, bassist Michael Meadows, drummer Dennis Palmer and guitarist Kelly Hoppenjans. The latter showcasing her musical axe skills during 10 Little Indians and Second Nature, two of the show’s most poignant musical moments.
Like any good rock opera, the show gets an energetic jump-star with Populism, Yea, Yea!, an all-in rocker that allows the entire cast to grab the spotlight.
Of course the show is called Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, and with Everett Tarlton in the lead he is indeed the star. In spite of his often questionable methods, Andrew Jackson has gone on to become one of Tennessee’s and dare I say, our nation’s most memorable Presidents. I predict, Nashville Rep’s Everett Tarlton will go on to become one our our theatre community’s greatest treasures, thanks to his balls-to-the-wall, Rock God-possessed, sexy-as-hell take on Old Hickory. With this role, Tarlton turns in what just might be a career-defining performance. Best part of Tarlton’s smoldering, unabashed sensuality, he does it all with a wink and a grin, leaving the audience to wonder if he’s just teasing or just a tease. Tarlton’s take on AJ-centric numbers like I’m So That Guy and of course Rock Star are further evidence that he is SO that guy and he is absolutely a Nashville theatrical ROCK STAR.
Rachel Agee as the storyteller is hilariously fabulous. Gunned down early on in the show, Agee’s Storyteller is bound and determined to share stories of her favorite president and returns to the stage in a wheelchair, and later, crawling, providing some of the show’s funniest moments.
Mike Baum is wonderful as Black Fox, a Native American blindly brought into Jackson’s inner circle, only to see him for what he really is, albeit a bit too late.
Making her Nashville Rep debut is Laura Holloway as Rachel Jackson. Illness as a Metaphor and The Great Compromise perfectly represent this show’s take on her relationship with Jackson. Holloway’s vocal talent and stage presence lend themselves nicely to the role.
Rounding out the Jackson family represented in Bloody is young Samuel Hallum as Lyncoya, the Jackson’s second adopted son. Young Hallum, thanks largely to costumer Colleen Burns Garatoni dressing him as an absolute miniature version of Tarlton’s Jackson, does a great job holding his own against his adult co-stars and shows promise of a great future in theatre.
As for the ensemble, standouts include Cameron Bortz, Bakari J. King, Megan Murphy Chambers and Scott Rice for their oft over-the-top performances as John Quincy Adams, John Calhoun, Henry Clay and Martin Van Buren, respectively. That’s right. Murphy Chambers in reverse drag as Henry Clay…there’s nothing she can’t do!
Totally taking advantage of some eery similarities between AJ’s reign of terror and the current political scene, you can bet there’s a few jabs at our current POTUS, including a humorous White House tour group who show up unexpectedly at Jackson’s office. Of course one of the tourist is sporting a bright red MAGA baseball cap!
That said, if you’re easily offended by political jabs—past or present, the sexiest presidential portrayal since Kennedy, on-stage depiction of random gun-fire and of course more than one instance of bloody bloody stage blood, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson might not be your game. On the other hand, if you’re up for a rockin’ history lesson filled with sex appeal and some of the most talented performers Nashville has to offer, get yourself to the Andrew Johnson for the final weekend of this bloody brilliant show about Andrew Jackson.
Tickets for Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson range in price from $55 for traditional theatre seating to$70 for special cabaret seating. Click Here to purchase tickets. Follow Nashville Rep on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Up next for Nashville Rep is their annual presentation of A Christmas Story. Click Here for tickets or more details.
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