'Andy: A Popera': Strange, smart, entertaining

Members of the Bearded Ladies Cabaret and Opera Philadelphia in "Andy: A Popera,"a carbaret now, a full-scale production in March 2015.
Members of the Bearded Ladies Cabaret and Opera Philadelphia in "Andy: A Popera,"a carbaret now, a full-scale production in March 2015. (Susan Beard for the Knight Foundation)
Posted: July 22, 2014

"In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes." Andy Warhol's 15 has been the longest in the history of time, and his fame for his iconic Campbell Soup cans and multiple portraits of Marilyn lives on.

The artist who defined the Pop Art movement is the subject of Andy: A Popera, the love child/brainchild of the Bearded Ladies and Opera Philadelphia. Their collaboration will culminate in a full production in March 2015, but meanwhile, this work-in-progress is presented as a cabaret in the Wilma Theater's lobby.

It's as strange and smart as we've come to expect from the Bearded Ladies. Though messy and overlong, it's stuffed with talented performers and is bizarrely entertaining.

The show's conceit is a lecture by an art history professor (Sean Lally) who is obsessed with the question "Why is he so big?" To answer the question, the Factory's headliners all turn up: the ditzy, empty Edie Sedgwick (Kristen Bailey), man-hating "I Shot Andy Warhol" Valerie Solanas (Jennifer Kidwell), Warhol's mother (Liz Filios), and a plaintive Candy Darling (Scott McPheeters), who sings "Remember Me" as she stages her own death.

There are a slew of mirrored, mirroring images - how Warhol would have loved selfies.

Funny singing soup cans do a couple of numbers, followed by four terrific singing Marilyns and Edie Sedgwick's great summarizing ode to multiples. There is a fugue of "I'm All Shook Up" and plenty of sexual ambiguity.

Singing fine operatic backup are John Miles, William Lim, Karina Sweeney, and Lucy Dhegrae. John Jarboe directs, and Heath Allen is the prodigious musical director who wrote many of the show's songs, drawing on classical opera as well as Elvis and Lou Reed. Ben Diamond is on drums and Andrew Nelson on bass.

Tonally, the show defies defining. It is both parody and tragedy, it is both a mockery of academic art history and an homage to the art that refuses to submit to the old gold standard. It's about the Big Nothing that keeps being Something.


CABARET REVIEW

Andy: A Popera

Presented by Bearded Ladies Cabaret and Opera Philadelphia through Sunday at the Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad St.

Tickets: $10-$25. Information: 215-546-7824 or www.operaphila.org


 

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