A ‘bloody bloody’ good show: UAlbany Music and Theatre puts on spring production
By KEVIN MERCADO
The University at Albany Department of Music and Theatre’s spring production, “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” wanted to be both educational and offensive. It managed to accomplish both.
The satirical emo-rock musical, directed by UAlbany student Chad Larabee, began showing at the Performing Arts Center on Wednesday, March 2. The play introduced itself by saying they wanted to make sure that every group present would be a little offended by the end, including Celine Dion.
Originally written and directed by Alex Timbers, the musical recounts Andrew Jackson’s rise to presidency, the creation of the Democratic Party, hardships he faced including the death of his wife, Rachel, and relocating the Native Americans through the Indian Removal Act.
Despite the heavy subjects, the show takes a light approach when conveying these times. Who wouldn’t want to see a closeted homosexual Martin van Buren, a bloody date and the narrator getting shot in the neck?
Nevertheless, at its core, the show intended to show UAlbany students that despite the political agenda being far different in the 1800s, similar characteristics still currently face the United States and its most recent presidents.
During Jackson’s presidency, he was forced to make a decision regarding an isolated and ostracized group of people. The show wanted to address groups today in similar distress. During one of the final scenes, images of Islamophobia protests, #BlackLivesMatter rallies, and LGBT protests were projected onto the back wall.
Despite doubling the size of the United States with the Louisiana Purchase, Jackson’s reign was tarnished because of the Trail of Tears, the forceful removal of Native American nations from United States territories following the Indian Removal Act of 1830. The relocation led to the suffering and deaths of thousands of Native Americans.
“I’m really proud of our cast,” said Larabee. “We wanted to produce [the musical] because of the presidential primaries. This show is so timely. We’re hoping audiences will be more involved in the presidential process.”
Larabee hopes that this show has moved students to go find the polls and cast their votes to make a difference in the upcoming presidential election. He was smart enough to do that through emo rock solos.
“Andrew Jackson” himself, mental health counseling graduate student Alec Lewis, 23, gave the presidential role a modern spin, donning tight pants, a musket, and lots of blood. Bloodletting is a metaphor for illness, according to the lyrics by Michael Friedman.
This version of Jackson is all about his greatest achievement: equality.
“It’s kind of ironic that my last line in the play is ‘I hope you remember me as a man whose achievement was for everyone in this country: equality’ because the entire play is about him killing all these people who live in America,” said Lewis. “[His achievement] absolutely wasn’t [equality.]”
Computer science major Devin Chacho, 18, who plays John Quincy Adams, said that looking back at what’s happened throughout in the light of the message perpetuated by the UAlbany theatre program, it is best to try and avoid the mistakes of the past.
The production was unapologetic in showcasing a “lighthearted” massacre of pretty much everyone on stage, much like the initial narrator of the musical. The show even ends with one of the actors, Serena Zajac, getting shot by an arrow and lying dead on the stage floor until the audience left.
“I had a lot of fun,” said Zajac. “Some people were concerned with me dying on stage, but I’m fine.”
The show also has several fourth wall breaks including conversing with the narrator, the audience and the band that were hidden in the back corner of the stage. The songs were filled with comedic light, even with heavy context at times.
Katherine Kulikowski’s rendition of “Ten Little Indians” was both haunting and comedic, casually killing off ten “Indians” as she sang. The show also categorized several former presidents into fun archetypes. Chacho’s John Quincy Adams was awkward and in his father’s shadow, Sean Dolnick’s Martin Van Buren was humorous in his closeted homosexual activities, like sensually eating a Twinkie.
It was a production that called for no expectations, but it did deliver.
“It was such a fun experience,” said Alexei Candreva, who played Lyncoya Jackson. “I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
After the performance, theatre department marketing supervisor Kahlia Taylor said that “it’s like watching your babies grow up.”