Take a flamboyant political figure from America’s frontier days, mix in issues and questions that are as relevant today as they were 200-plus years ago and set it to an emo/punk rock score.
What you have is the recipe for an engaging Broadway musical that serves as the next offering in the Walter Gloor Mainstage Series at the State University of New York at Fredonia.
The Fredonia Department of Theatre and Dance presents “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” for six performances from Nov. 30 to Dec. 8 in Rockefeller Arts Center’s Bartlett Theatre on the Fredonia campus.
“It’s going to be a very entertaining, immersive experience,” said Director Dr. Jessica Hillman-McCord, associate professor with the Department of Theatre and Dance. “Bartlett Theatre is an intimate setting, which will give the show the energy of a rock concert.”
Hillman-McCord describes “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” as “raucously funny with a political kick.”
“This is a comedy with moments of seriousness,” the director said. “There’s a strong message, presented in an entertaining way. It’s not a dusty, sepia-toned history piece.”
“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” follows America’s seventh president from his early life on the frontier to his controversial reign in the White House.
“It follows the broad outline of history and captures the essence of that history,” Hillman-McCord said. “It gets the flavor while not being tied to every exact detail.”
The director explained the show is not misleading with facts, but rather tries to take that “emotional arc of history and relate it to today.” She noted that cast members have been doing their own historical research on Andrew Jackson and the corresponding period of American history. She is hopeful audience members might be motivated to do the same.
“It was the adolescence of America, the country was at a transition point,” Hillman-McCord said. “The show questions if we have come out of that adolescence period yet and it uses Andrew Jackson as a way of commenting on our history and our political values.”
She described Andrew Jackson as a populist who was a polarizing figure in the White House.
“He was a cult personality,” Hillman-McCord said. “The question the show poses – and one which has modern resonance – is what happens when the populace blindly follows the cult of personality?”
Hillman-McCord said “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” has the anarchic feel of an off -Broadway production with fast, abrupt changes in tone and emotion. It is a feel that she thinks “matches the tone of the Jackson presidency.”
More than 75 people are involved in the Mainstage production, including a four-piece rock band under the direction of James Welch of the School of Music faculty and a cast of 17.
“It’s a really talented cast,” Hillman-McCord said. “They have to be able to do comedy and sing rock music. And our tech students always do such a tremendous job.”
The set, which was designed by Theatre and Dance faculty member Czerton Lim, has the look of a saloon.
“It’s a modern look with touches of the historical,” Hillman-McCord said. “It puts events in a setting modern audiences can relate to.”
While all the seating in Bartlett Theatre is intimate in nature, the director noted there are a limited number of special seats that will offer “opportunity to be up close to the action,” for those who desire such an experience. All tickets are general admission, so seating is on a first-come basis.
In the end, the director is hopeful that “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” will prove thought provoking.
“Hopefully, it leaves people talking,” Hillman-McCord said. “Conversation is vital right now. We’re so divided.”
“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” is recommended for mature audiences only, as it includes explicit language and violent content.
Tickets are available through the Campus Ticket Office in the Williams Center, by phone at 673-3501 and online at fredonia.edu/tickets. Dates and show times are Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 2 at 2 p.m. and Dec. 6, 7 and 8 at 7:30 p.m. It is presented as part of the Lake Shore Savings Season.