POP! at the Yale Rep

By Roz Friedman

Snap, Crackle, POP!  I am not referring to Rice Krispies cereal here, but POP! a brand new musical that generates enough electricity to light up not just a stage, but a whole theater. It will play for a short run through December 19; I hope you get there- before it finds a home Off Broadway; for that is where this playfully intriguing work belongs.

Discovered by Yale’s Artistic Director James Bundy, developed at the Yale Institute for Music Theater, only in it second year, and supported by the Yale Center of New Theatre, this almost two hour work without Intermission is an exciting look into Andy Warhol’s life.  FYI: Warhol was an artist, who came to fame in the 1960’s and was responsible for the term, Pop Art and culture, which has influenced a whole stream of artists and film makers. He died in 1987 at the age of 59 during (Gall Bladder) surgery.    

This is the kind of production that boasts so much talent it is hard to know where to begin. Maggie-Kate Coleman’s Book and Lyrics are strong and unique, blending fact and poetry. The story, which takes place in Warhol’s New York home of work and play, The Factory, is a mystery; it asks the question: Who shot Andy Warhol?  He was in fact shot in 1968 and there were many suspects. Contemporary in style, the Music by Anna K. Jacob is pulsing, powerful and passionate. The twenty-five numbers move the action along well. 

Directed by Mark Brokaw, Choreographed by Denis Jones, Costumed by Ying Song, the 7 member cast, which never stops moving on Valerie Therese Bart’s iron-framed high-to-the-ceiling Set, lit colorfully by Kevin Adams, is sensational. Brian Charles Rooney’s phenomenal performance as the transvestite Candy is a tour de force. He has a voice range that is remarkable and wears a purple lace dress better than most divas.

Randy Harrison carries the white wig well, capturing the imaginative lost boy who is Warhol in the very first song after the Prologue, a beautiful one, “Paper Bag.”  It seems that Warhol gave everyone small empty paper bags as gifts. We have been following the very gifted Leslie Kritzer from her roles as the bride in Broadway’s “A Catered Affair,” to her star turn in “Rooms: A Rock Romance;” here, she is fierce as Valerie, who is the founder of SCUM, Society for Cutting Up Men, and wants Warhol to produce her play, the title of which can’t be repeated on air (“Up Your Ass”). Dynamic in their roles are Cristen Paige as Edie Sedgewick, an heiress and movie star, Emily Swallow, as Viva, re-named by Warhol after a paper towel, Danny Binstock as Gerard and Doug Kreeger as Ondine, Warhol’s assistants. All of them finally want compensation for their work with him. 

There are wonderful special effects that make “POP!” very special. While Warhol is drawing and painting on the floor, the colors are projected on the wall above. We observe as 99 Superstars on the wall disappear one by one, underscoring the artist’s famous quote:  We all get fifteen minutes of fame.  Hopefully, “POP!” will enjoy much more time. At the Yale Rep through December 19.

This review originally aired on WMNR 88.1FM FINE ARTS PUBLIC RADIO


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