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'Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson' Is a Matter of Interpretation at Chance Theater

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
Through August 7
Thursdays at 7:45 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 and 7 p.m.
Chance Theater
5552 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim Hills
Reservations: 714.777.3033
:: chancetheater.com

I love that I can use descriptions like “raunchy, inappropriate, irreverent, and over the top” when describing a show I have seen. It doesn’t happen often enough, but you can definitely count on the Chance Theater to bring some good, not-so-clean humor to the stage in the summer months. The theater that brought you pop culture shock talk icon Jerry Springer to the stage in 2011 now offers up the bad ass of American history, Andrew Jackson, our country’s seventh president.

Andrew Jackson had a nickname - he was known as “Old Hickory” - a name given to him affectionately by his troops, since they considered him as tough as a wooden switch. He was considered “The People’s President” and the founder of the Democratic Party. Jackson was as revered as he was controversial, and with a book by Alex Timbers and the music of Michael Friedman, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson treats us to an entertaining, albeit not so historically accurate rock-and-roll romp through this period of our nation’s history.

“Part history, part rock concert and part SNL sketch comedy satire” is how the Chance is promoting this show, and this description is spot on, and then some. The Chance reconfigured its intimate space, transforming it into a rustic and grungy staging of a Wild West show mixed in with a goth/rocky, '90s, emo-ish rock concert. An in-your-face, fist-pumping company opens the show, singing “Populism, Yea Yea” and from the get-go you realize that this is going to be a rather warped history lesson, sort of fact-based with a great deal of foolishness and satire mixed in. If you know that going in and are not cross-referencing your AP American History notes, you are in for an entertaining, intermission-free 90 minutes.

Directed by Kari Hayter, who assembled a fantastic cast from the Chance’s stable of repertory players and its Cal State Fullerton darlings, this posse of triple threats is fierce and committed to this rock show. Lead actor Keaton Williams, a Titan senior this fall, is a bit of a baby face Jackson, but overcompensates with attitude and grit, while Chance resident Alex Bueno steals your heart with her loveable and optimistic role as the storyteller and Jackson’s adopted Indian child, Lyncoya.

The entire cast is to be commended for its wonderful and silly character depictions of many names in history you may be familiar with if you were paying attention in class - Ashley Arlene Nelson as Rachel Jackson, Robert Wallace as Jackson’s Indian liason, Black Fox, James McHale as James Monroe, Zachary Storey as Henry Clay, Gary Fields as John Calhoun, Nick Adorno as John Quincy Adams, and Kyle Cooper as Martin van Buren - Cooper has some scene-stealing, Twinkie-eating moments that will definitely make you chuckle. Topping off this cast are Gasper Gray as the band leader, Chelsea Baldree, Danielle Green, and Janelle Krester.

Kelly Todd’s choreography is brilliant when encompassing so many story lines and characters into song and dance numbers in a small space, a testament to her and this athletic cast - the actors literally run around the building to meet some of their queues. The music direction of Robyn Wallace with sound design by Dave Mickey and Iris Zacarias are to be commended as it is a balance to have the band rock, but not so hard that the audience needs ear plugs. The band - Wallace on keyboards, band leader Gray on guitar, Steven Wagner on drums, and Bill Strongin on bass - is an integral part of this rock show/play. We got the feeling they could have blown the roof off the Chance, but showed considerable restraint, even making way for an acoustic guitar number featuring as many cast members the stage could hold in “Second Nature.” This is one of the coolest points in the show.

Very creative scenic design by Christopher Scott Murillo and the fun costuming of Carin Jacobs along with some enviable fight choreography designed by David McCormick, propping by Richard Ordiano, lighting designed by Steve Giltner, all add to the overall experience of this raunchy ride through history.

As far as my other descriptors, be aware that there are some inappropriate bits and a few F-bombs that will have parents covering their children’s eyes and ears, so leave the little kiddos at home for this one. And, although there are times when you may get a bit confused with the irreverent treatment of history and over-the-top antics of the motley crew of characters, if satire and a bit of potty humor is your thing, you will certainly enjoy Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Bravo to the Chance for another fun summer show - perhaps next year we will see Lincoln staking vampires in song… hey, stranger things could happen!

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