GRAPEVINE Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, with a book by Alex Timbers and music and lyrics by Michael Friedman, had a healthy and acclaimed off-Broadway run in 2010, and created such buzz that it moved to Broadway later that year. It didn’t spend much time there, though.
If you’ve seen it in a small, intimate space, you will understand why a big theater isn’t the right fit.
The show recasts the story of the seventh president and the birth of the Democratic Party as an emo rock ’n’ roll show, with Jackson as the lead singer in eyeliner. It practically screams out for a scrappy, young company like the one at Grapevine’s Ohlook Performing Arts.
Presented as the late show (11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays for the next two weekends), and directed by Jill Blalock Lord, this Bloody cast captures the raw, youthful energy of the songs and material, thanks to a four-member band led by keyboardist Kelley Poche Rodriguez on opening weekend and James McQuillen for the rest of the run.
The ensemble sets the mood with the raucous song Populism, Yea, Yea! with the hip-swiveling, tight leather pants-wearing John Davenport as Andrew Jackson, Rock Star. With his fast-rising political career and plans for Western expansion, Jackson accomplishes his goals, but it’s at the cost of friendships, trust and love. He got what he wanted, but he lost a lot of respect along the way, notably from the American Indians he removed from their territory.
Davenport has the sexual charisma and whiskey-soaked voice needed for the role, carrying the aggressive and vulnerable moments. Woodie Blackburn plays a dope-headed Martin Van Buren and James Worley is a deliciously over-the-top John C. Calhoun.
The rest of the ensemble has fun with the material, too, and if there are a few sour notes here and there, it still holds up as a rock show on a Western set that might actually be the setting of a show by, say, an alt-country band. As usual, Lord doesn’t shy away from the more adult humor in the show (this one isn’t for the young ’uns).
It’s sex, politics and rock ’n’ roll in Grapevine, yea, yea!