Theater arts department rocks story of Andrew Jackson

Brandon Bailey and Alexa Fryover rehearse for the upcoming musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, which will open Wednesday March 22.
Photo by Martin VanBuren

“You ready?”

That’s the opening line of the musical “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.” It’s also a question that was badgering the cast and crew of the Castleton University production, only a few days away from opening night.

The tension was at an all time high.

“We open in less than a week, which is basically horrifying,” jokingly said Elijah-Joseph Spiese, a junior at Castleton and stage manager of the production.

Spiese had the same role for the show “Fuddy Meers” during the fall.

“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” will open March 22 in the Casella Theater, at 7 p.m. It will then run for four consecutive nights, with two matinees on March 26-27.

The show, written by Michael Friedman, opened on Broadway in 2010. It tells of the foundation of the Democratic Party and of the story of Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States.

The approach, however, is not at all traditional. “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” is a rock musical, and with the aid of the music, it portrays Jackson in an audacious, entertaining way.

Angela Brande, costume designer for the musical, decided to transmit that feeling of modernity into the costumes.

“I spent a lot of time listening to the music, and noticing how modern it was, and by going through the script in a forensic way I was able to discover anything that was explicitly said or implied about the clothing,” she said.

Brande has also been working on creating some fake blood for the scenes that require it.

“It could almost be edible, if it weren’t for the dish soap,” she said with a smile.

She is hoping to perfect her blood formula by opening night, since she needs to make sure it can be easily washed off the costumes.

The key element to a successful show is coordination, and making sure everything is in the right place at the right time is the props master’s job – a role covered by student Matthew Eckler.

“It is all about organization,” Eckler said. “I have a list of things I need to find, or make, before opening night – the only problem is that it keeps growing,” he added with a laugh.

Eckler has some consistent experience behind the scenes, having worked as the stage manager for “Hand to God” in the fall.

“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” originally calls for more than 60 actors, but the Castleton production only involves 20 students. Only four of the student actors play one role. Some, like Kaetlyn Collins, play as many as six.

“I don’t find it particularly challenging,” said Collins. “The most difficult part about it is definitely switching quickly from one role to the other. You are always the same person, but for the audience, you have to be six different people.”

Student actors rehearse for the upcoming musical. Photo by Martin VanBuren

“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” is directed by theater professor Harry McEnerny, but he won’t be alone.

“When I direct a play, it’s just me. But with a musical, there is a lot more that goes in this production. It is a lot more about teamwork: director, choreographer and vocal coach need to work together,” he said.

The vocal coach, professor Sherrill Blodget, and the choreographer, Maya Kraus, have been working with McEnerny since the beginning of the production.

“One of the great things about theater is that everybody always learns something. Some people are better at singing, others at dancing. Whatever your strength area is, what makes it so exciting is that there is always something to learn,” McEnerny said.

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