STAGE REVIEW: “Bloody” good show

Remember those elementary school history pageants where a kid plays Abraham Lincoln in an ill-fitting Sunday suit and stovepipe hat made out of construction paper and tape? Or the School House Rock sequences on Saturday morning cartoons? They were all about teaching history in accessible, simple ways.

Now imagine the same thing, only with people screaming “Fuck!” a lot and Martin Van Buren portrayed as a mincing fop. That’s Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.

An off-Broadway hit, Bloody made smaller ripples when it moved to B’way; no wonder. The musical is angry and funny and very outre — it’s Spring Awakening about politics, or Avenue Q with fewer puppets (there are some). It’s a hard sell.

But it shouldn’t be. The local-premiere production, now at Theatre 3, is as energetic as a freight train going downhill without a break. A cast of 16 moves frantically through about 70 years of early American history, from the expansion of the West into the Louisiana Territory and “the slavery question” and how the Native Americans were treated by the U.S. government. It touches on the internecine particulars of the “Corrupt Bargain” of 1824 and the inevitable hypocrisy of true populism as a political and governance philosophy. These aren’t topics many college kids grasp, but the script (by Alex Timbers) and score (my Michael Friedman) boil it down by turning Andrew Jackson (Cameron Cobb, in the rabidly maniacal performance of the summer) into a hard-drinking, vulgar rock star.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones