Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bloody Bloody Waste of An Andrew Jackson

Dear Broadway,

I have long been a fan of your product, Enjoyable Theatre Experiences. However, recently I made the mistake of attending this show:

...which was the pits. On the plus side, the marketing gimmick was that tickets on the 20th were 20 bucks (an Andrew Jackson, get it?), as a way of stocking the seats with exuberant fans during previews. Clever, indeed. Clever in part because the whole time I was only thinking of how I had wasted $20 and not $100 or whatever you'll be charging soon enough.

The lead was solid, and many in the supporting cast were pretty great - making the horridness of the show all the more apparent. The plot meandered and didn't have much of an arc, the songs were pretty good but didn't approach the teen angst exuberance rock of Spring Awakening, but worst of all were the gay jokes.

I didn't realize that in 2010 it was still something to do, have villainous characters express themselves with lecherous or pansy gay behavior as an inside joke with the audience so we'd know they were "bad." Now, I'm a fan of mincing as much as the next guy, but if it's just mean-spirited, then all that's happening are jarring and negative moments that take the audience - me at least - out of the experience and set me off to wishing I was being taken out of the theatre.
At least in Diamonds are Forever, with those two stereotypes trailing James Bond, we have the excuse that this was 40 years ago, and also Dame Shirley Bassey. Andrew Jackson, you are no Dame Shirley Bassey.

It bothers me in particular because I heard such good things about this show when it was Off-Broadway, and nary a mention of this part of the show. And if it achieves the success of Spring Awakening, or Rock of Ages, or any of the other teen angst with swears and tight pants musicals, then it'll be a popular destination for high schoolers, and they'll be exposed to cheap humor based on stereotypes. Shame on you, Great White Way.

In conclusion, Broadway, you failed me. On the plus side, I had a nice night out with a chum and we had pizza after. On the minus side, I thought you could do better.

PS: For some levity, here's Mister Paul Lynde. The mincers will never hit these heights again.


Adam said...

Dear Chris,

I enjoyed this post, though I also enjoyed "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" and didn't have the same problems you had with those "mincing" characters. The show satirizes with such a broad brush (from Native Americans to the disabled), their portrayal of dandyish gay men just seemed to be part of the package. And I actually read those characters more as dandies than just specifically gay men; they reminded me of similar dandies in plays like "Angels in America" (the ones who show up before the Angel comes) and in the play "Amadeus." There's a specific name for them but I forget. All that said, I'm doubtful that this show will succeed on Broadway; it reminded me of a very good college sketch comedy show. Fondly, Adam

CRD said...

Hm, we have different readings of the same content. This is like college!

John Quincy Adams and Martin van Buren were definitely portrayed as lecherous gays who were hitting on AJ, and what set me off in the first scene was the mincing cobbler who was annoyingly effeminate and also killed off immediately. I think that with the Native American portrayals the racism of the characters was built into the script in such a fashion that we, the audience, were inclined to see their racism as a bad thing, and could interpret their actions as a bad part of our history that was being mocked. With the gays, it felt like they were being mocked just for cheap laughs and with no moral lesson attached - an escape valve for giggles built into the play for fidgety audiences bored with historical politics.

Angels in America assumes a different audience and context.

Furthermore, I got a free BBAJ pin which I can give you since I don't want it.

ALH said...

Every reading is a valid reading, but I agree audience context counts. But at least John Quincy Adams and Martin van Buren weren't lecherous PERSIAN gays.

P.S. Thanks for taking one for the team and saving me the $100.