Andrew Jackson is a bloody-good time

Andrew Jackson is a bloody-good timeLilly Johnson as the titular character in "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson," playing at the Burroughs High School Performing Arts Center — Photo by Laura Austin

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By BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

In 2015, Lin-Manuel Miranda turned musical theater on its head with his revolutionary sun- and rapped-through musical “Hamilton.” But a few years before Hamilton went Hip-Hop, there was “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” – composer and lyricist Michael Friedman’s portrayal of Andrew Jackson, one of our more infamous presidents, as a rock-and-roll man of the people.

The Burroughs High School Drama Department’s production of Andrew Jackson, which opened last weekend and continues through Nov. 10, adds a punk-rock bent to the already-rockin’ musical and offers something for rockers, musical theater fans and history buffs alike.

While I was only able to catch the 30-minute preview given to BHS students last week, it was enough to keep me wanting more.

First off – I immediately fell in love with the set, something that has come to be expected from shows under the direction of BHS drama and art teacher Tristan Kratz. A faded American, being enveloped by a collage of rock posters and old-west paraphernalia, served as the backdrop for the on-stage rock band that served as the singers accompaniment.

Senior Lilly Johnson is as commanding as ever as a gender-bent portrayal (another practice I’ve come to expect from Kratz’s productions) of the titular character and seventh President of the United States. Johnson brings a tenacity to the role of a man, who, in one of his dozens of duels was shot squarely in the chest and still managed to shoot and kill his opponent.

It’s also worth noting that Johnson is ABSOLUTELY SLAYING the faux side-shave look.

Rhiannon O’Connor, also a senior, plays Indian Chief Black Fox, Jackson’s ill-fated advisor who begrudgingly takes part in the President’s removal of the Indians at the behest of “the people.”

Following her stirring performance as the escaped slave Jim in last year’s “Big River,” O’Connor delivers again in Andrew Jackson, particularly with her moving rendition of “Second Nature.”

The show takes a harrowing look at the United States’s treatment of Native peoples from the beginning of the Indian Removal Act to the Trail of Tears, which resulted in the deaths of more than 10,000 Native Americans. The final scene mentions numerous other events up to the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy of 2016.

Given the cunning, bravado, cabinet practices and political outsider status of “The People’s President,” it’s almost impossible to avoid drawing comparisons between his administration and that of President Donald Trump’s.

It’s tough to say how history will view a president when he’s still in office, and it’s far too early to deem Trump’s presidency as controversial as Jackson’s. But the play does illustrate how the will of *the* people can sometimes be profoundly damaging to *other* people. And it should give pause to those who do not try to see the world from eyes other than their own.

Performances continue Friday and Saturday, Nov. 9 and 10, at the BHS Parker Performing Arts Center. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are available for $10 at Red Rock Books and from cast and crew and $12 at the door. The show contains language and content that may not be suitable for younger audiences.

Story First Published: 2018-11-05