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“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”: Old Hickory doesn’t stick

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“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” a hit at New York City’s Public Theater that transferred to Broadway, will close January 2 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. The show will have delivered 120 Broadway performances. Reports say that the musical was lately making less than half of its possible box-office take.

When I saw the show last summer at the Public, seats were scarce and people were clamoring to get in. “BBAJ” was extended repeatedly to meet the demand.

So what happened? Once tickets became more plentiful, did they suddenly seem less desirable?

That’s probably part of it. But the show was always a strange brew of diverse ingredients: historical narrative, “emo”-influenced rock music, political satire, and sophomoric humor. Could people feel completely guilt-free in giggling at a show about the ruthless U.S. president responsible for the infamous Trail of Tears: the shameful campaign against American Indians?

It’s not that the show lacked for talent or expertise, beginning with writer/director Alex Timbers and songwriter Michael Friedman. The performance by charismatic star Benjamin Walker has been a special plus, and I have no doubt the industry will be seeing a lot more of him in the future.

My suspicion is that the show stumbled in part because—during and after the rancorous November election season—few theatergoers were in the mood for a show about misguided populism and a sex-symbol politician unable to live up to his promise. It was just too dispiriting to watch this production while contemporary politicians flailed and carried on like performers in a Wild West show.

The producers of the musical, Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel, are reportedly confident that BBAJ will have a future life on the road and in London. I hope so. Despite its sillier aspects, the show had something to say, even if Broadway audiences tended to plug their ears to it.

BBAJ is one of several Broadway musicals scheduled to fold in the next few weeks. Others include “The Scottsboro Boys,” “Next to Normal,” “Fela,” “Promises Promises,” “In the Heights,” “West Side Story,” and “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.”

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