MUSKET to give 'Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson' new life
“Theatre isn’t like film –– it’s not timeless. It has to be a part of the times, and the audiences bring their individualized experiences to the theatre. This show is important because it is holding up a mirror to the United States, trying to make an argument for the roots of our country,” said Marty McGuire a Music, Theatre & Dance junior and director of MUSKET’s upcoming production of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.”
McGuire hails “Bloody Bloody” as one of the “gems of musical theatre” that went greatly under-appreciated after a short Broadway run. After opening in 2010, the show, like all of Broadway, suffered from the post-recession sluggish economy, and after the economy took a hit, so did Broadway –– people were unable to splurge on expensive theatre tickets. The economic climate of the country at the time put “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” in a tough position. McGuire, however, took a liking to the piece, and he proposed it last year, given its timely nature.
“This show makes a statement about being informed as an American people,” McGuire said. “It asks the question: What prompts the rise of a controversial president?”
The piece, which satirizes and follows the life of seventh president of the United States Andrew Jackson, did a wonderful job inciting important conversations during its Broadway run. The cast and crew of MUSKET’s production hopes to prompt many of the same questions and discussions. The musical’s desire to create a dialogue works well, and this will be emphasized in talk-backs after some of the performances.
The show has been hailed as intelligent and unique. McGuire claimed it “shamelessly does a lot of things that many musicals do not do because often times musicals are so stuck to this theatrical convention that is American Musical Theatre that they don’t play with possibilities.”
When diving into the project, McGuire absorbed all of the available history on Jackson’s life and presidency. He describes the process as doing a lot of “digging” to find the most historically accurate information to relay to his cast and crew. When taking on a historical and political piece in the theatre, often times one has to walk a thin line of what is and isn’t historically accurate. Additionally, McGuire had to pick out which pieces of the history he most wanted to focus on when helping the actors create and further their characters.
McGuire has had the pleasure of directing and working with a wonderful team of actors and designers. SMTD Sophomore Jacob Smith will be playing the title role of Andrew Jackson in his MUSKET debut. Smith has had a wonderful time tackling such a large role that is both vocally and emotionally demanding.
“The show gets outrageous, in more ways than one, and I hope that audiences question why that is,” Smith said. “How did someone like Andrew Jackson get elected as president? Why is the persecution of minorities such a motif in our history? Why is there a scene where Andrew Jackson slits his wrists and bathes in his own blood? I hope we can have audiences asking questions like these and so many more.”
In addition to the talent of Smith, joining McGuire on the creative team is SMTD senior Charlie Yokom. The music is an important staple in the piece, consisting entirely of rock. This is used to make an allusion to the American experience, drawing comparisons between the American idolization of rock stars and of presidents. It isn’t just rock music for it own sake, and its outsized role in the play makes the music director’s job all the more fun.
When asked about the process, Yokom said, “It's been really terrific. One of the cast members is also in the band so it has been a great addition having a guitar in the rehearsal room. This show is really fun to rehearse and the goofy cast we have makes the process all the better.”
The music of the piece has become increasingly relevant with recent events. The composer of the piece, Michael Friedman, passed away this past September at the age of 41 due to complications of HIV/AIDS. MUSKET’s production of his show will be the first since his death, a fact which is both intimidating and empowering to the team.
“I feel a great responsibility to get across his intention and to honor this work,”McGuire said.
McGuire is both passionate and positive about the upcoming performance: “I want people to take away whatever they like from this show. It’s theirs. Theatre is our gift to the audience. It’s scary, but that’s the thrill of it.”