Pop! -- All Singing, All Dancing Mystery

By Bob and Karen Isaacs

The latest production at the Yale Repertory Theater starts off with a bang and on the floor of “the factory” lies the body of Andy Warhol who has just been shot. Warhol was the perpetrator of “pop art” with a philosophy everyone can make art and that art can be made out of everything. 

The work, Pop! is a musical with book and lyrics by Maggie-Kate Coleman and music by Anna K. Jacobs having its world premier through Dec. 19. It was developed last year through the Yale Institute for Music Theater.

The world that Warhol created may not everyone’s choice and, in a sense, the character in the play, played by Randy Harrison, presents an image of someone who has little or no volition and uses, or better, accepts what is at hand.

“The Factory” was what Warhol’s studio cum set cum home was called. A diverse collection of artists, wanna-bes, hangers on, and celebrity lovers populated “the factory.” Set designer, Valérie Thérèse Bart, did a terrific job recreating the ambiance and personality of the space. The costumes by Ying Song captured the 60s mod and outré look.

The mystery of the work is who shot him. The unraveling of the mystery provides the plot of the musical. Each of Warhol’s coterie is a possible perpetrator with legitimate motives. Warhol was an equal opportunity user of people. Among the possible shooters are Candy, a transvestite,  brilliantly created by Brian Charles Rooney; Edie Sedgewick, an heiress with a taste for drugs and “scene,” played by a vivacious Cristen Paige – a perfect role for Kristen Chenoweth;  Viva ( Emily Swallow), the intellectual darling who supposedly gives “substance” to Warhol’s theories;  Valerie Solanis played by Leslie Kritzer, the anti-man intruder who wants Warhol to produce her play and pay her; plus two men – Ondine (Doug  Kreeger) and Gerard  Malanga (Danny Binstock) one of many often unacknowledged Warhol collaborators.

In case you don’t know, Andy Warhol was wounded but not killed by this real incident. He died many years later. And it was Valerie who pulled the trigger.

All and all the music is tuneful and pleasant though an occasional phrase seems very familiar. But it did seem incongruous to hear somewhat traditional music coming from characters who delighted in shocking the conventional art world.

Don’t be shocked by some of the language that Valerie uses, but much of it is good for a laugh.

The play is set as mystery with Candy as a mistress/master of ceremony. Each of Warhol group gets a number – from Edie with her “Poor Little Rich Girl” and “Racist Doll”  songlets as they are billed – to “Candy’s Lament” and the trio of Valerie, Edie and Viva’s  “Big Gun.”  “Pop,” the title song, is perhaps the best of the group.

There is a black and white film on a similar theme, “I Shot Andy Warhol,” something of a cult classic,  which has a scent of pornography about it and is definitely not as much fun as Pop!

Director Mark Brokaw kept the pace moving with the help of choreographer Dennis Jones.

However, though the musical is just one act and runs about 100 minutes, some in the audience found it long.

Pop! Is at the Yale Repertory Theater, 1120 Chapel St., New Haven. For tickets or information call 203-432-1234 or visit yalerep.org.


This review appeared in Shore Publications.

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