If a gun-toting, emo-rock screeching Andrew Jackson moves your mojo, the just-getting-started Broadway theater season may be right up your alley.
Think high school history, but the high school’s the one in Glee.
*** BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON (Jacobs Theater on 45 th Street between Broadway and 8th Ave) features a score by Michael Friedmann, the composer behind KC Rep’s season opener SAVED. Too bad Friedmann left his rocking shoes in New York. Where SAVED played it white bread safe, BLOODY BLOODY kicks out the jams in a wild take on our 7th president and founder of the now down-in-the-dumps Democratic Party.
Tea Partiers take a number; this Andrew Jackson was a frigging Wildman. I’ll admit I didn’t know much more about POTUS 7 than the lyrics to “The Battle of New Orleans,”
But he was a real hell-raiser. Hated East Coast “insiders,” hated the Brits, hated Native Americans (though he adopted one)—this guy made Rand Paul look like a choir boy.
From the downbeat, this megawatt musical kicks ass.
I have no idea what it’s doing on Broadway—though it is one block over from AMERICAN IDIOT, two blocks from ROCK OF AGES (check that one at the Music Hall this Spring) and down the street from the rocking (and Pulitzer Prize winning) musical NEXT TO NORMAL. A spawn of RENT, BLOOD BLOODY isn’t remotely as sharp or creative as that seminal piece.. You probably won’t see it in KC until Steve Eubanks or Padgett—one of the smaller, riskier companies—takes it on. But that won’t be the Broadway production. If you have a yen for American history writ LOUD, check out the $50 tickets, on sale for the next few weeks..
*** The London import of LA BETE (Music Box Theater, 45th Street between Bdwy and 8th)
is not to be missed.
The brilliant Mark Rylance, who won a Tony for the silly farce BOEING BOENING a few seasons back, mesmerizes as a farting, spluttering blob of a clown who drives superciliously serious actor David Hyde Pierce (that’s right, Frasier’s brother Niles) up a wall and down again. He swallows up the stage with his performance. Hyde Pierce probably has the tougher assignment—looking on as Rylance’s eponymous character chews scenery. He’s great, as is Joanna Lumley from the BBC comedy “Absolutely Fabulous” as the wealthy patron who subsidizes these two. High art vs low and the whole notion of groveling for public support (Lumley’s like the NEA) sounds like heady subject matter. But LA BETE plays it for all the fall-on-the-floor funny you can imagine, Rylance setting up the jokes and Hyde Pierce standing by, Jack Benny –style, to get trampled by the comedy stampede.
*** In a season that’s going to be chock full of comedies and musicals— ten new ones and three or four more revivals over the next six months—there’s some nice dramatic work on Broadway as well. Patrick Stewart stars with TV star T.R. Knight in a charming revival of David Mamet’s two-hander A LIFE IN THE THEATRE (Schoenfeld Theatre, 45th Street between Bdway and 8th).
*** And the Manhattan Theatre Club (Friedman Theatre, 47th and 8th) scores with another British import, THE PITMAN PAINTERS, about a bunch of English miners in the early 1900s who take art classes and become the famous Ashington Group. The play’s by Lee Hall, who wrote the screenplay for BILLY ELLIOT (as well as the book of the Elton John musical). This is dramatic (and political) turf he knows well.
And there’s tons more to come.
*** Lincoln Center’s new musical version of the Almodovar film WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN opens Thursday with music and lyrics by David Yazbeck and book by Jeffrey Lane—the very funny guys behind DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS.
*** Paul Rubens stars in Pee Wee Herman’s Broadway debut this month, along with Jerry Seinfeld’s Broadway directing debut, Colin Quinn in LONG STORY SHORT (like I said, lots of comedies). James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave star in a revival of DRIVING MISS DAISY and our own John Kander offers up his latest musical THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS, his last oeuvre with life-long collaborator Fred Ebb. More on those next time here at the Con.