It’s a landmark season for San Francisco Playhouse, and the company launched it in raucous style Saturday with a new home and a new production of the irreverent rock musical, “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.”
The Michael Friedman-Alex Timbers hit about the seventh U.S. president proved to be an inspired choice to inaugurate the company’s 10th anniversary season — the first in its new, 200-seat digs at 450 Post St., formerly known as Theater on the Square.
The evening started with proclamations and speeches — by former Mayor Willie Brown, and Playhouse founders Susi Damilano and Bill English — and ended with a gala party.
In between, there was “Jackson,” 90 minutes of in-your-face rock, edgy humor and a satirical take on American history.
The show — currently one of the country’s most frequently staged new works — includes just enough of the facts to justify Old Hickory’s name in the title. It follows Jackson from his humble Tennessee birth all the way to the White House as a Washington outsider who vows to be the “People’s President.”
Friedman and Timbers employ a blend of styles — raw humor, hilarious asides, a slash-and-burn score offset by mournful emo-rock ballads. In Jackson’s rise, and inevitable fall from grace, there are nods to the vitality of “American Idiot,” the pathos of “Spring Awakening” and the goofy irreverence of “South Park.”
With Ashkon Davaran in the title role, it’s often very funny. Davaran makes Jackson a glazed slacker with a volcanic temper, and he delivers songs such as “I’m So That Guy” with appealing force.
Even when he’s repellent — toward the end, for example, as he directs a genocidal campaign against various Indian tribes — you just can’t look away.
Directed by Jon Tracy, with music direction by Jonathan Fadner, the supporting cast sings, dances, plays all the instruments and inhabits multiple roles. Standouts include Angel Burgess, El Beh, Safiya Fredericks and Olive Mitra.
The show may not give you a warm feeling about American history, but it’s an entertaining ride; it’s apt for an election year, and an ideal choice for showing off the new theater. Nina Ball’s set — an arched scaffolding with multiple playing spaces — suggests myriad possibilities for the company’s future. With their award-winning track record, Damilano and English will doubtlessly fill the stage in surprising ways over the next 10 years.