A young veteran of Kansas City theater, Shea Coffman is rehearsing the lead role of Andrew Jackson in the Unicorn's production of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson while he performs in Spring Awakening at the Coterie Theatre through Sept. 30. A tenor, Coffman also faces the challenge of singing solos and ensembles in all but three of the 13 musical numbers in Andrew Jackson.
One of the most commanding songs of the show is Coffman's, when he sings "I'm Not That Guy."
"Its a rock-and-roll song, really," he said. "It;s this thing, like, I can never be the person I need to be. And then I get to sing it again in "I'm So That Guy." The ensemble comes rushing at me, and they're singing rock-and-roll, almost as if they're the voices in my head. And they say, 'You've got to do this, you've got to kill everyone, sort of rise to power, and I can be that guy and start killing everybody.'
"It's kind of nice because in most musicals, there are all these intricate harmonies and these people singing this time and then you come in. And you're counting and doing all this different stuff," he said. "This music is really, truly rock-and-roll and pop rock and emo rock, that it's like you sing this the entire time while this person sings this and we stay through to the end.
"The music is definitely dynamic and interesting. The music director, Jeremy Watson, has been really great about saying, 'You can take liberties with this and make it your own in this moment,' and it's true rock and roll."
Besides Coffman's hectic schedule of theater work, he's even helping a friend who moved back to Kansas City from Chicago by being a "manny" to her son two days a week.
Coffman's resume includes acting in more than 22 plays, in addition to some cabaret and voiceover work. He has acted in other cities, as well. Four years ago, he went on a cross-country tour with his best friend, traveling in their car, doing an abridged version of Tom Sawyer in various schools.
He is openly gay and has had a boyfriend for the last two years, who goes to Kansas State University. He grew up in Raymore, Mo., and described the attractions of staying in Kansas City compared to traveling in regional theaters:
"It's so tough, because living in Kansas City, you know people, you have a place to stay, it pays really well, you're working with people you love to work with. So it's kind of hard to take the time to leave town, to audition for something, go to callback, say, 'OK, I'm going to come there. Here's my plane ticket. This is where I'm living for a few months.'"
He's also a writer and has directed some plays, and he's even considering doing standup comedy.
Coffman said he's looking forward to performing Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.
"I like that it's not a boring look at history," he said. "It's not very often that you get to see a show that takes history and makes it sort of now. It's so interesting to look at it and see how relevant it is.
"I mean, there are lines in the show that are like, 'We'll ruin the bank and we'll cripple the courts and we're going to take back the country,' and you hear that and you're like 'holy shit, this could be, if it weren't Andrew Jackson singing, it could be some kid at Occupy Wall Street singing this. It's so profound that history repeats itself."
"Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson"
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is a rocking Broadway musical packed with songs, a live band and great choreography. The story is about the seventh U.S. president and his controversial role in kicking out the British while also chasing the American Indian farther west. Opening Oct. 10, the play is surprisingly timely – some of the dialogue and song lyrics sound as if they were written about the current presidential race.
The show, directed by Cynthia Levin, runs Oct. 10-Nov. 4. It was written by Alex Timbers, with music and lyrics by Michael Friedman, and it's co-produced with UMKC Theatre. For tickets and information, go to www.unicorntheatre.org.