American History Rocks in Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson
Photo by Jeffrey Schmidt Cameron Cobb, making Old Hickory all sexypants.
Dallas actor Cameron Cobb played Hamlet in 100-degree heat in Samuell-Grand Park last summer for Shakespeare Dallas. He portrayed numerous roles, male and female, in Kitchen Dog's excellent two-hander The Turn of the Screw this spring. Now it's his manifest destiny to occupy the title role in Theatre Three's rude and raucous musical Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson.
It's a bizarre, angry, funny, balls-out rock musical based on facts about American history, the seventh president and what he did to the people who lived on this continent before the Mayflower brought white folks to it. Full of intentionally anachronistic references to the "Occupy" movement, the Tea Party (the one with Joe the Plumber, not the earlier one in Boston Harbor) and certain maverick-y presidential candidates of the recent past, the show wraps it all in a throttle-up emo style that fits Cobb right down to his black-polished fingernails.
Created at New York's Public Theater in 2009 by Alex Timbers (book) and Michael Friedman (music and lyrics), the show is R-rated Schoolhouse Rock, mixing facts with fiction, and songs with profane vignettes, in the telling of the main character's far-out ideas about how to make the country larger and more powerful. (Hey, Indians, screw you!) Was Jackson a genius or simply an attractive hick swept into office on a platform of genocide and land grabs?
Photo by Jeffrey Schmidt Hail, ye gods of politics!
Cobb's omnisexual swagger in his tight black jeans and red, white and blue cutaway coat turns Andy Jackson into an early American poster boy who gets the populace excited with empty platitudes and a talent for shootin' stuff. As Jackson whores for votes, he starts out singing "I'm Not That Guy," followed shortly by "I'm So That Guy." The score's best is a loud number called "Populism Yea Yea!," in which the chorus sings: "And we're gonna take this country back for people like us, who don't just think about things." (Today it's more like "who just don't think.")
Like The Daily Show, this musical builds its outrageously entertaining bits around legitimate truth. Implied throughout the evening is how much Americans like a streak of showbiz in their leaders. We'd love a rock god as president. (Bieber, you've heard our plea. Now grow up and lead us out of this mess.)
The onstage band and the large cast, directed by Bruce R. Coleman, get the joke. They're having such fun with this show that it's easy to enjoy it with them. Cobb's the best thing to hit stodgy old Theatre Three in many a moon. Is there another actor in town who could do this role with such swagger, such a knowing smirk underneath the black lipstick? I vote no.
Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson continues through July 7 at Theatre Three. Call 214-871-3300.