Andrew Jackson takes the stage

The Xavier Theatre Department puts on its fifth show of the 2017-2018 season Feb. 2-4

Photo courtesy of Xavier Theatre | The theatre department’s fifth production for the 2017-2018 school year is a satirical criticism of the Trail of Tears time period of United States history. The political message is fitting given the current political climate.

After the mania of Hamilton that’s swept Broadway throughout the last two years, it seems ridiculous to learn that there is another, more controversial American figure at the center of another, more controversial genre-bending musical. But where Hamilton is gentle in its criticisms of the Founding Fathers and celebratory of modern American diversity, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson drives a South Park-style skewer through an oft-overlooked period in American history.

Andrew Jackson, his life and what will become the Trail of Tears are at the center of this confrontational, energetic and shockingly funny musical. The material is tough, but director Stephen Skiles handles the story with grace.

The performance takes place in a blackbox-style theater, but the room has been transformed to look like a dive bar, complete with a live band in the corner. The set surrounds the audience, seated on benches and picnic tables throughout the room. Everywhere you look, political and band posters line the walls, news articles and costume pieces are littered throughout the room and bright lights and fog extend to every corner of the performance space.

The cast is there, too — throughout the entire show. Led by a courageous and charasmatic Josh Carandang in the titular role, the ensemble cast blends modern influences and 19th-century values with remarkable energy and depth.

Annie Mayer’s choreography fills the tight space with energy and precision, and Skiles’s knack for powerful stage images blend the chaos of the script into an emotional, hilarious story.

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is tough to watch. It’s hard to reflect on being an American when our history is so marred with the blood and sacrifices of others.

What Bloody Bloody does so well is balance its attack. Rather than place the blame on a single political party, historical figure or ideology, it casts the blame for the American genocide of the Native Americans on all of us. The foundations of racism, elitism and entitlement that America still bears in the shadow of Andrew Jackson are embedded in the performance at every turn, but the humanity of Carandang’s performance as Jackson delightfully complicates our expectations.

It confronts us with our history, our problems and the people at their base. Most importantly, whether you’re tucked into the bleachers or seated in the front row, it won’t let you look away.

Performances are completely sold out. Call the Xavier Box Office at 513-745-3939 to join the waitlist. Performances run February 2-4.

By: Hannah Sgambellone ~Staff Writer~