Benjamin Walker for president! The actor’s charismatic turn in the title role of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, a provocative indie-rock musical, helped make it a surprise hit at the Public Theater earlier this year. He remains the single biggest reason to see the show now that it’s moved uptown for a Broadway run. Walker plays Jackson as a goofy charmer with an unhinged streak — a slave-owning, native-massacring narcissist whom you can almost justify voting for on grounds of sheer star quality.
If that sounds like heavy subject matter for a musical comedy, well, it is. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is brimming with such contradictions. A thoroughly researched examination of early-19th-century American history, the show is nonetheless riddled with anachronisms for comic effect. The overall tone is one of uproariously un-PC slapstick, yet director/co-writer Alex Timbers sneaks in a number of surprisingly nuanced insights into electoral politics, then and now. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson’s depiction of xenophobia-fueled populist rancor felt relevant a few months ago; in light of the upcoming midterm election, it seems downright necessary today.
Walker’s engaging performance goes a long way toward making this complicated material connect with audiences. So do composer Michael Friedman’s solidly catchy emo tunes, which work better than ever in the new production. Many of these songs sound like they were written for a lighter-filled stadium, and the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre’s more expansive room is a step in that direction.
Aside from the change in venue and a few minor tweaks to the supporting cast and staging, though, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is presented more or less exactly as it was at the Public. That is not a complaint. Many of those who have already discovered this unique show will no doubt jump at the chance to experience it all over again. If you haven’t seen it yet, what are you waiting for? Shows this weird and wonderful don’t make it to Broadway every day. A
(Tickets: telecharge.com or 212-239-6200.)