One can only speculate what the late president Andrew Jackson might have imagined as the soundtrack to his life. In the end it doesn’t matter. A new musical has provided it for him and it has made a surprising choice: punk rock.
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson will be performed Thursday through Sunday at the Amato Center for the Performing Arts in Milford. The show, which was developed by the New York-based experimental company Les Freres Corbusier, opened off-Broadway in 2009. It went to Broadway the next year and only recently finished its run. When the rights became available, Jamie Feinberg, artistic director for Not Your Mom’s Musical Theater, pounced. She had read tons about the production and thought it fit perfectly with Not Your Mom’s mission statement of being “Innovative. Lesser-known. Edgy.”
“It was the mix of subject matter that was exciting,” Feinberg said. “Andrew Jackson was a controversial political figure, and punk rock is a type of music most people don’t listen to on a regular basis.”
Feinberg said the show is almost like a sketch show that follows Jackson’s life in chronological order, but some of the skits may include multiple years of his life. Learning more about Jackson was a fun part of putting on the show, according to Feinberg. She said the cast watched some great biographies and read books about him.
“I’ve always had an interest in history but didn’t know more about Andrew Jackson than your average person,” Feinberg said. “I knew there was information about him stored in the recesses of my mind.”
Feinberg said the production begins deeply satirical and larger than life but as it develops it addresses more serious issues such as the infamous Trail of Tears (the forced relocation of Native Americans) and Jackson’s complex relationship with his wife, Rachel, who did not want him running for the presidency again after he lost in 1824.
“Sometimes it’s accurate, other times not as much,” Feinberg said. “But it is actually amazing how much history was packed into a 90-minute show.”
While the cast needed to learn about Jackson, as the musical director Feinberg needed to do her research on punk rock. She learned about various styles of the music from its early days to its migration to the West Coast. She was aided in this effort by the sound designer, Tim Koukos, who worked with punk rock bands up and down the East Coast. He gave everyone a history, which Feinberg said was a nice kickoff to the show.
Including punk rock, and having a show that is so heavy on music, made it crucial for Feinberg to find performers who could sing as well as act. She said the show, which has a cast of 13, was a larger undertaking than normal for Not Your Mom’s but still not a huge show. In addition to the actors, there is a punk rock band of three musicians. She said the band leader is one of the most important roles in the show as he comments on the songs. Some of the actors must perform on guitar as well.
“The music in this show isn’t like a conventional musical,” Feinberg said. “The songs comment on Jackson’s life and there is no real line drawn.”
The show’s actor-musicians are led by Dylan Gamblin as Andrew Jackson and Feinberg as his wife, Rachel Jackson. The ensemble includes Ross Boyd (as the Bandleader), Anja Parish, Joey T., Jocelyn Duford, Dave Ostrowski, Daniel Joseph Sardella, Becky Rush, Angel Roy (whose day job, full disclosure, is as Hippo’s food writer), Lauren Dillon, Nat Ward, Tom Holmes, and Justin McLean.
Not Your Mom’s is also dispelling its reputation of only performing in smaller venues. This show will be at the large and comfortable Amato Center for the Performing Arts. Feinberg said she performed in the theater three years ago and always loved the venue. The stage will be designed to make audiences feel as if they’re at a punk rock concert.
Feinberg did want to remind all prospective attendees that the show is for mature high schoolers and adults only, as it includes filthy language, blood and promiscuity.
“The show is a controversial political satire with punk music,” Feinberg said. “You won’t see a show like this in New Hampshire for a while.”
But Feinberg did say she was happy to see that other theater companies, like the Acting Loft and Ghostlight Theatre Co., were also taking risks and producing new and innovative shows.
“It’s nice to know we’re not the lone wolf and that there is an audience developing for these types of shows,” Feinberg said.